Jail Covid-19 fund loot­ers to prove ‘new dawn’

Cape Argus - - OPINION -

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.

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