Hawks raid municipal offices as anger grows over ‘Covidpreneurship feeding frenzy’

President Cyril Ramaphosa tries on personal protective equipment donated to health-care workers. Allegations about corruption in the procurement of goods to combat Covid-19 are surfacing. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times/Alaister Russell

The Hawks have seized documents from the offices of the Nkomazi local municipality in Mpumalanga related to suspected Covid-19 procurement fraud worth R27m.

The investigation involves the appointment of contractors and service providers.

The latest raid comes as public outrage grows over reports of a “Covidpreneurship feeding frenzy” worth billions emerging in the country.

“The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) in Mpumalanga has conducted a search and seizure operation at the Nkomazi local municipality,” spokesperson Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi said in a statement on Friday.

“The operation follows investigations in relation to alleged Covid-19 procurement fraud wherein appointments of contractors and service providers were inconsistent with the requisite procurement regulations.”

Mulaudzi confirmed no arrests had been made, but said the documents would assist with the ongoing investigation.

The raid comes amid growing outrage over the alleged misuse of funds allocated to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

The Sunday Times reported last weekend that anti-corruption investigators were probing a slew of allegations about unscrupulous officials and businesses benefitting from billions meant to fight Covid-19.

Deals believed to be worth more than R2.2bn, involving emergency purchases of personal protective equipment (PPE), are at the centre of what one business leader described as a “heart-wrenching, unscrupulous and filthy” feeding frenzy.

Political parties, religious leaders and civil society organisations have spoken out about the feeding frenzy.

In a joint statement on Friday, several organisations expressed “disappointment and anger”, warning that “Covidpreneurship” was happening while millions of South Africans faced job losses and increased poverty.

The organisations included the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Corruption Watch, Freedom Under Law,  Johannesburg Against Injustice, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse,  Patriotic Movement, the SA Communist Party in Gauteng and Section 27.

The SA Council of Churches (SACC) said it was “disgusted by the revelations of the shameless looting of funds” in a statement on Thursday.

“It is shocking that taxpayers’ money, which was dedicated for life-saving measures related to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic that is crippling the whole country, was shamelessly taken advantage of by greedy individuals who, like vultures and hyenas over dead bodies, saw the pandemic as an opportunity for a feeding frenzy, with no concern for poor people,” the council said.

Quoting a verse in the bible, the council added: “They have sunk deep into corruption. God will remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins” (Hosea 9:9).


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