South Africa is reeling from covid-19 linked scandals that have battered President Cyril Ramaphosa’s credibility and the country’s image abroad.
An outcry began with reports that local government officials were hoarding and selling food donations to families without income during lockdown. Some hospitals found that state purchases of masks, gowns and PPEs were not reaching staffs.
Anger reached its zenith when funds from landmark $29 billion relief package went missing. Unemployed South Africans queued for hours for grants in chilly winter mornings, only to be told their share of aid was not available.
“Corruption is more real than previous case when money was stolen from Eskom and Transnet”said economic analyst Thabi Leoka.
‘When hungry families are waiting for food packages, the realness of it is just very stark’
This scandal moved up the political chain last month, when the husband of presidential spokeswoman Khusela Diko was accused of securing multimillion-rand contract for protective gear. Probes into coronavirus equipment tenders have since thrown other high profile figures into limelight.
Ramaphosa has vowed to go after individuals and companies behaving like a “pack of hyenas circling wounded prey”.
When corruption emerges in situation that thrusts the issue of trust and social compact into focus…the stakes are higher. South Africa is no stranger to graft. The ruling ANC forced ex-president Jacob Zuma to step down over corruption in 2018.He was accused of systematically plundering government coffers during his nine-year of reign in a scandal known as ‘state capture’. Ramaphosa won 2019 elections on an anti-corruption ticket. But president has been slowing to clean out the rot that flourished under his predecessor.
‘Whenever there is a huge government expenditure on procurement, corruption risks emerge’ Singh told AFP. Experts agree that Ramaphosa should have introduced checks to prevent individuals from enriching themselves through pandemic. ‘The president stuck his neck out quite early to say that COVID money would be watched very carefully” said Stellenbosch University fellow Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, specialized in graft and public sector. Ramaphosa does not have a handle on corruption. Coronavirus is a tough leadership test for a leader whose popularity was dwindling even before pandemic.
Ramaphosa has been attacked on all fronts for his response to the outbreak, and graft scandals have provided bait. ‘South Africans are tired of empty gestures’ Democratic Alliance party leader John Steenhuisen said. “We have a spectator president.”
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said corruption allegations have spotlighted Ramaphosa’s weakness within ANC and turned more citizens against him. The public anger will go in next year’s local government elections.
In a statement given on Tuesday, veterans of armed struggle in ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe wing described “the issue of COVID-19 looting”this is a true litmus test for President Ramaphosa.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni called for all PPE tenders to be made public while several provincial government disclosed details of their coronavirus related expenditures.
South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit [SIU] is investigating over 160 companies to check legitimacy of corona virus expenditures. It will publish all contracts for protective gear for health workers.
‘Transparency gives us opportunity to find documents in a centralized place, rather than having to follow people who are willingly hiding information’ SIU spokesman Kaizer told AFP.
But Mathekga doubted coronavirus would be enough to ‘change the moral basis’ of South African politics. If the system has reached a point where rot is displayed at each and every opportunity that’s what you will continue to see.Follow us in social media: