President Cyril Ramaphosa has compared those linked to Covid-19 personal protective equipment corruption to murderers.
Ramaphosa, who said this while addressing members of the SA National Editors Forum on Wednesday evening, spoke as prices of some PPE skyrocketed by more than 800%.
“I’ve often asked myself what gets into somebody’s head that a mask that would ordinarily cost R2 or R3 is now sold at R90.
“That must tell anyone who does that that it’s not only wrong but it’s criminal, criminal, completely unacceptable. I subscribe to the view that WHO has put on it that this is akin to murder, and including the issue of shoddy equipment or products … that too where someone, a supplier or manufacturer’s shoddy products and then sold to government and government pays, and sometimes pays in advance, it is plain robbery against the government and it should not be allowed,” said Ramaphosa during a question-and-answer session.
World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in August said the PPE graft mainly endangered the lives of health-care workers.
“ … anyone who sells anything to government must not be seeking to make an excessive profit because government manages public money, it is people’s money …,” Ramaphosa said.
He said a “line would be drawn” to disallow the tender system from being taken advantage of to make excessive profits “from a disaster such as the one we are going through now”.
Sowetan editor and Sanef treasurer Nwabisa Makunga asked when law-enforcement agencies would start prosecuting those implicated in corruption.
Ramaphosa responded that there were quite a number of people who were being investigated and the Special Investigating Unit was giving him reports every six weeks. He said the law-enforcement agencies had raised issues about lack of resources, crying foul for being understaffed.
“ … we will provide them with resources where … they are needed so that they can speed up their work,” he said.
Sanef chair Sbu Ngalwa raised concerns about the treatment of journalists in SA and Zimbabwe. SA journalist Paul Nthoba was exiled in Lesotho after he was harassed by local police and the matter has been referred to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
“Paul is back in the country and subsequent to that we’ve met with the leadership of the SAPS and we are working on a memorandum of understanding which will arm journalists and the police as well on what they need to do and how to conduct themselves at crime scenes,” said Ngalwa. “This will be important as we have had a number of incidents of harassment of journalists, particularly under the lockdown.”
Ngalwa said Sanef was happy that Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono had been released on bail after being arrested for protesting against the government.
“But we remain concerned with the continued harassment of journalists. Over the past few days, SABC foreign news editor Sophie Mokoena and anchor Peter Ndoro were abused by officials linked to Zanu-PF,” he said.