Jail Covid-19 fund looters to prove ‘new dawn’
THE impact of politically connected individuals looting the Covid-19 emergency fund has already begun to have a devastating effect on health care.
Sadly, doctors and nurses are paying the ultimate price for the thieving frenzy that has robbed vulnerable health-care workers of lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE).
At least eight doctors have died of Covid-19 in just one week across Gauteng hospitals. Health-care workers are being made to face this killer disease with poor quality PPEs or inadequate protective gear while politicians and their friends go on a looting frenzy.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura has described Gauteng as a “crime scene” amid embarrassing allegations of some of his trusted lieutenants being fingered for plundering Covid-19 funds. Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and his wife, City of Johannesburg shared services MMC Loyiso Masuku, have been asked to “step aside”, along with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko, over a R125-million PPE tender.
They are not alone in facing serious allegations of pillaging; it goes right to the top and permeates the corridors of Luthuli House, while doctors and nurses are forced to bring their own masks to work. The lack of consciousness among the looters is staggering.
Already, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), empowered by President Ramaphosa to investigate corruption claims in contracts involving SA’s emergency funds, has revealed the R2.2 billion being probed is just the tip of the iceberg.
Over 100 companies – some just months old and others with no history of being PPE suppliers – have mushroomed in every province to raid the R500bn emergency funds for the crisis.
The free-for-all plunder has clearly long been out of control at provincial level. The national government must step in to stop the rot and prevent the investigation from degenerating into a politically expedient whitewash.
We agree with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni that each province must publish a list of all the PPE companies to deal with this “crime scene”. But the process must go further and make public their directors. Politicians and their friends cannot be allowed to play Russian roulette with the lives of the majority wallowing in poverty.
The SIU must not only recover every cent but also jail the culprits. That is the message we expect, as promised by the new dawn.