Political Analyst Tinyiko Maluleke has described as “a waste of time and resources” government having to tackle allegations of corruption and tender irregularities, rather than strategising on helping people fight the coronavirus pandemic.
This comes after Presidential Spokesperson Khusela Diko, Health MEC Dr. Bandile Masuku, and his wife Loyiso Masuku went on a leave of absence this week amid a scandal over alleged irregularities relating to a R125-million personal protective equipment (PPEs) tender. The tender was awarded to Royal Bhaca, a company owned by Diko’s husband.
Maluleke says government officials should be concerned over South African’s lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than being embroiled in corruption allegations.
“This ought not to be necessary at all had there been no need to make the allegations that have been made. We are a country that is facing 8 000 deaths and nearly 500 000 people infected with COVID-19. That ought to be the biggest concern for our leaders and for ourselves. It is such as waste of resources and time that we now have to speak about graft and not to talk about strategies on fighting COVID-19 is working.”
Impact of Masuku’s leave of absence on Gauteng’s fight against COVID-19
Following Masuku’s leave of absence, he was temporarily replaced with Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo, who has been appointed to act in Masuku’s position. However, Mamabolo does not have experience in the medical field, prompting questions on how Masuku’s four-week absence from work will impact on Gauteng’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura has said the controversial tender has prompted the province to stop payments of about R1 billion to over 100 companies that are also being investigated following allegations of PPE tender irregularities.
Several Non-Governmental Organisations, which include the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Corruption Watch, OUTA, and Section 27, have expressed disappointment and anger over reports of widespread corruption involving funds meant to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in Gauteng.
The organizations have welcomed Makhura’s decision to place Masuku on leave pending an investigation, over his alleged involvement in the R125 million tender.
“We welcome the decisive action following the allegations of corruption. This is an important step for accountability and in the fight against COVID-19. We have to say though that we’ve seen improvement in Gauteng Health under MEC Masuku’s leadership. And we also appreciate his responsiveness to civil society problems that we’ve identified. We do trust that the investigation will be conducted thoroughly and expeditiously so that we can get to the bottom of this,” said a spokesperson for NGO Section 27, Ntsiki Mpulo.