The South African Council of Churches (SACC) said it was “extremely disgusted” by revelations of the “shameless looting of funds” through alleged irregularities in Covid-19 procurement processes.
This follows reports that government officials were allegedly involved in irregular tender processes relating to the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Gauteng health department has been embroiled in corruption claims, with the Sunday Independent reporting that a R125 million PPE contract was awarded to Royal Bacha – owned by the AmBhaca king, Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, who is the spouse of presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko.
Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku’s wife, Loyiso who is the City of Johannesburg’s MMC for group corporate and shared services, has also reportedly been linked to the claims through her close relationship with Diko.
Masuku has denied any impropriety on his part.
On Monday, Diko took a leave of absence from all her government responsibilities.
In a statement on Wednesday, the SACC said: “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 the poor people.
“These allegations have been really disappointing to us and for South Africans at large,” the SACC said.
In his address to the nation on Thursday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced he had signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate Covid-19-related corruption.
The president added that 36 cases related to Covid-19 corruption were being investigated and prosecuted.
“We are determined that every instance of alleged corruption must be thoroughly investigated, that those responsible for wrongdoing should be prosecuted and that all monies stolen or overpriced are recovered,” he said.
The SACC said it was “very much alert to the reality that the rapid response we needed to employ in dealing with the crisis we face, has made us vulnerable from those who are unscrupulous and are committed to exploit our resources through fraudulent means”.
“In the rush of the moment, corruption does take place and others will be seeking to gain by the increase of prices, taking advantage of the desperate needs of our people.
“South Africa’s deep corruption scourge and the poor track record of holding people to account, does not inspire confidence that any further funds intended for mitigation of the dire socioeconomic impact of Covid-19 will be used accordingly.
“Those who engage in such calculated Covid-19 theft are behaving like opportunists that swoop to gobble up access to help, leaving the weak and sick, desperate for breath, and for protection from the deadly virus.
“These so-called ‘Covid-preneurs’ have shown that the evil culture of greed and corruption triumphs over honesty, ethics and good governance in our government, and this needs to be uprooted.
“We make an appeal for those people who are involved, some of whom are our congregants, to refrain from these criminal acts of fraud and corruption, and be reminded that they are not stealing from government, but from the mouths of people of South Africa, and more especially, the poor who continue to suffer at this time,” the SACC added.
The SACC called on Ramaphosa and the government to do more than condemn and promise action.
“We need to see arrests and convictions of these criminals who have shown that they will not be deterred by a devastating global pandemic, or people going hungry and even dying.”
In a joint statement on Wednesday, the Dikos addressed the tender awarded to the king’s Royal Bacha projects, the public outrage over the claims, their relationships with Masuku and his wife, and his appointment to several boards.
“We reiterate and emphasise that at no point did we discuss the extension of our family ties to benefits that will accrue from public sector procurement,” the Dikos said.