Cyril must act or risk leaving Covidgate as his legacy

President Cyril Ramaphosa has told the SIU to probe ‘improper or unlawful conduct’ by government employees during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: SUNDAY TIMES/ ESA ALEXANDER

The news of the Special Investigating Unit probing 352 tenders in the Eastern Cape with a combined value of R2bn, is a welcome development.

Some of the tenders are those to supply personal protective equipment to government departments and municipalities. By signing the proclamation that paved the way for the SIU to start the investigation, President Cyril Ramaphosa took a first but important step towards clearing the rot in all spheres of government.

Unleashing the SIU is an upgrade from his normally well-crafted speeches which have promised to crack down on wrongdoers ever since he ascended to the top office at the Union Buildings.

However, some South Africans will be sceptical about whether the SIU probe will result in any convictions.

Who can blame them? This is justifiable since this is not the first time that a sitting president has signed a proclamation for the SIU to probe allegations of corruption, maladministration and malfeasance in the province.

To date, we have not heard of any convictions. This means either the SIU’s work which may have resulted in convictions is not being communicated to the media and the public, or their investigations are just a box-ticking exercise — a public relations stunt.

To be seen to be doing something about corruption is not good enough — at least not any more. South Africans want to see heads roll and people being criminally charged and prosecuted for their crimes. The culture of impunity cannot be allowed to continue any longer.

Failure to act decisively on the Covidgate saga, which Ramaphosa has likened to vultures circling a wounded prey, will only see his approval ratings plummeting further and the tag of weak and indecisive leader sticking to him.

It will also be a blight on his presidency. This is something that Ramaphosa does not want, especially since he was seen as the corruption buster when he was elected as the ANC president and later the country’s commander-in-chief.

Fighting corruption and holding people to account was his campaigning tool. The campaign is long over and now it is time for Ramaphosa to show us he is the ethical and clean leader he punted himself to be.

To effectively fight corruption and looting, Ramaphosa’s administration has to ensure the Hawks — which have had their wings clipped for years now — live up to their name and swoop on wrongdoers instead of being used to arrest the wives of former cabinet ministers in domestic cases.

The time for grand speeches condemning corruption and maladministration is over or else, Mr President,  the shameless looting during the global health pandemic will be your legacy.

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