Pretoria – Civil society organisations want President Cyril Ramaphosa to act decisively against people who illegally acquired personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders due to the close links to politicians.
The organisations include the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation; Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac); the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation; the Foundation for Human Rights; the Nelson Mandela Foundation; and the South African Council of Churches (SACC), during its meeting held with President Ramaphosa on Friday.
The group laid out several proposals that would make for a social contract between the government and the people of South Africa, based on corrective measures, to rebuild trust.
The delegation was well received by the government and Ramaphosa said it was a historic meeting: “To meet and focus on this one matter of corruption.”
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation director Neeshan Balton said Ramaphosa identified corruption as one of four crises confronting South Africa – with gender-based violence and femicide, poverty and inequality, and Covid-19.
“Recognising fully that the people want transparency and consequences for wrongdoing, he pledged commitment to immediate, medium-term and long-term actions; and indicated a desire for a structured way of working together with civil society to address these challenges,” Balton said
In their presentation to Ramaphosa, the organisations urged him to deal with the Covid-19 fraudsters, saying they welcomed the opportunity to listen to what the president plans to do to tackle COVID-19-related corruption, and what civil society can offer to strengthen this response.
“The group issued a moral call on August 7, 2020, to the people of this country, urging them to demand greater transparency, accountability, and good governance, underpinned by ethical leadership.
“We demand that the law enforcement agencies investigate, recoup the money and prosecute those in the public and private sector involved in Covid-19-related corruption.
“We want to see Covid-19 looters in orange overalls!
“We noted the destruction of the state’s capacity to effectively conduct emergency procurement processes, especially when it is delegated to provincial and municipal officials.
“The weaknesses of this system – coupled with the deeply ingrained patronage networks of civil servants, and politically connected individuals and enterprises – provided opportunities for the rampant looting of public resources,” Balton said.
The group said reprehensible conduct placed lives in danger, prompting the director general of the World Health Organization to declare such behaviour as tantamount to murder.
“There have indeed been reports of deaths of health care personnel due to defective and inadequate PPE equipment, which only highlights the devastating consequences of this unconscionable conduct,” Balton said.
He said their call speaks to a deep and countrywide outrage and anger at the high levels of corruption being reported variously, in the media and on the ground in communities.
“At the heart of the anger and outrage is the collapse of the social contract between the government and the people in the state, as embodied in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
“Such a contract is bound by trust and accountability.
“A factor that militates against that trust is the continuous and embedded practice, by the governing party and its leadership, to treat state assets and institutions as freely available to the party and its leaders to use at will,” Balton said.