News | Opinion
Next month will mark one year since the first positive Covid-19 case was reported in South Africa. I think it’s safe to say the past year will go down as one of the most bizarre in history.
As a country, not only did we have to fight against a novel virus that claimed over 45,000 lives, but government officials also had egg on their faces during this trying time when scandals about protective personal equipment (PPE) tender irregularities emerged.
Former Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko were allegedly involved in corruption pertaining to PPE contracts.
In last week’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government acted decisively to put a stop to these practices, to investigate all allegations and to act against those responsible.
Ramaphosa confidently added that the execution of the national anti-corruption strategy was under way.
READ MORE: ‘Justice must prevail, no matter who is involved’, says Lamola on corruption
Frankly speaking, I think the national anti-corruption advisory council will be expensive and, of course, the citizens of the country, the taxpayers, will be the funders.
It will probably be expensive because the directors-general and other people will have to be remunerated for conducting the council which will in all likelihood be a waste of time.
I don’t think exceptions such as the government setting up councils to “investigate allegations” must be made to officials who break the law.
Ramaphosa also said the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was authorised to investigate allegations of unlawful conduct with respect to Covid procurement by all state bodies during the national State of Disaster.
“As it reported last week, the SIU has final ised investigations into 164 contracts with a total value of R3.5 billion,” he said.
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The president acknowledged there was plenty of evidence the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture laid bare about the extent of state capture and related corruption.
“Testimony at the commission has shown how the criminal justice system was compromised and weakened,” he said.
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) last month released the staggering 2020 results.
South Africa was still at a low score of 44 and was ranked 69th, alongside Bulgaria, Hungary, Jamaica and Romania.
In the past eight years, the country has hovered more or less around the 44 score, forming part of the two-thirds of countries with a score below 50.
This shows the alarming levels of corruption.
David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, said graft needs to be fought in the ANC first.
READ MORE: The net is closing in on corrupt officials, says Ramaphosa
“Corruption in the ANC has to be tackled, otherwise the public will not believe that corruption is being ealt with and it will certainly continue to increase,” he said
Lewis said government had to carefully monitor the roll-out of the vaccines.
“If the government messes up the distribution of the vaccines in the same way that they did with the purchase and distributions of the PPE, then the CPI will worsen next year,” he said.
Corruption sets a bad precedent, especially if it is done by officials and they are not punished.
It creates the impression corruption is a norm is South African society.
I long for the monumental day when we live in a corruption-free country and when our government officials choose to understand the president’s words: “Corruption is one of the greatest impediments to the country’s growth and development.”
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