by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – SOUTH African President Cyril Ramaphosa warned the law would descend on politicians and businesses involved in corruption, particularly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in South Africa.
The threat follows incessant allegations of looting of relief funds by some politicians and the inflating of essential equipment by some companies, among other series of sleaze.
“Corruption during a national disaster is a particularly heinous type of crime, and perpetrators are going to be dealt with decisively and harshly,” Ramaphosa warned in his weekly letter to the nation.
It came days after his spokesperson, Khusela Diko, took leave after her spouse was allegedly involved in tender irregularities.
Other politicians from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) have also been sent on leave following the controversy.
Previously, some councilors had been accused of diverting food parcels and selling them in illegal markets.
Ramaphosa said perpetrators of corruption lacked conscience.
“Attempting to profit from a disaster that is claiming the lives of our people every day is the action of scavengers. It is like a pack of hyenas circling wounded prey,” the president stated.
South Africa has over 511,485 cases of COVID-19 and more than 8,366 deaths.
“As we find ourselves in the grip of the greatest health emergency our country has faced in over a century, we are witnessing theft by individuals and companies with no conscience,” Ramaphosa lamented.
“These stories have caused outrage among South Africans. They have opened up the wounds of the state capture era, where senior figures in society seemed to get away with corruption on a grand scale.”
Ramaphosa recently signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate any unlawful or improper conduct in the procurement of goods and services during the national state of disaster.
He described it as a broad remit that extended across all spheres of the state and, importantly, provided for civil proceedings to recover misappropriated funds.
It enables the SIU to probe each credible allegation that is made about the theft of COVID-19 funds. Ramaphosa will receive interim reports every six weeks on the cases at various stages of investigation and prosecution.
When investigations yield evidence of criminality, they will be speedily referred for prosecution.
“Those found to have broken the law to enrich themselves through this crisis will not get to enjoy their spoils, regardless of who they are or with whom they may be connected,” the president assured.
He added COVID-19 presented South Africans with opportunities to change the way they lived, did business and governed.
“This moment is definitely a turning point in the fight against corruption. We are going to act boldly and must act together,” he concluded.
– CAJ News