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When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced, in August, that he had set up the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) to act against those profiteering or stealing money from government funds intended to alleviate the Covid crisis, many were sceptical.
After all, even with Ramaphosa – who had seemed like the proverbial knight in shining armour after the depredations of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma – there has been a lot of talking the talk, but not nearly as much walking the walk as his Thuma Mina revival promised.
The MAC was made up of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) or Hawks, Special Investigation Unit (SIU), Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). This week it said it had launched a number of successful investigations of looting of Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Temporary Employer Relief Scheme (Ters) money.
Not only had these investigations been successful in identifying the thieves, they also enabled more than R3.7 billion to be recovered through measures like the freezing of the bank accounts of the suspects.
We look forward to seeing news of even more successes in the campaign to identify and bring to book those who have benefitted, corruptly, from tenders for personal protective equipment (PPE) intended for state health workers.
While the successes are encouraging, the government should seriously consider making examples of these particularly morally reprehensible criminals. When, in a crisis of global proportions, which claims lives, a person callously steals money meant to fight a virus scourge, they should not be charged merely with common law crimes of theft or even contraventions of government procurement regulations.
They must be charged with assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm (to health workers) or economic sabotage (theft of vital money) or even treason, for betraying their country.
These people are heartless vultures and should be shown no mercy.
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