Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela says the country has lost money, probably some of its frontline workers, and the trust of its people in government because of corruption.
She was speaking at a virtual rally against corruption on Friday organised by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
“Trust was already in the emergency room in this democracy. When we talked about the new dawn, that was a period that that trust was being renewed. We are back in the emergency room that makes our democracy fragile.
“Corruption is a threat to all of us. The outcomes of corruption are death, hunger and anger and democratic fragility,” said Madonsela.
She said corruption involving PPE procurement endangered society and had led to many losing hope in the democracy of this country – with many blaming President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“What saddens me is that everyone now blames the president. Yes of course, he is the captain, but he allowed himself to be barricaded by his own ministers. He was advised by his ministers who moved him away from the Disaster Management Act and created a structure, mostly allowing one party to manage this crucial economy of this country.
“I think the president will do himself a favour and return to the Disaster Management Act framework and take away the monopoly from his colleagues,” said Madonsela.
“Can we blame the fact that there was an emergency procurement to be done? No, the law is clear, nothing in emergency procurement allows overcharging, over-billing, false billing, cronyism, nepotism and the violation of conflict of interest.
“Nothing in emergency procurement allows a state functionary to leave tried and tested service providers in their system and go for fly-by-night tenderpreneurs or covidprenuers.”
Madonsela said there were problems involving bakeries and other dubious companies that won tenders and then overcharged for items and shoddy work.
“There are companies that have no structure but will replace products if there is [a] problem. But there are others who are not party to regulatory bodies that assure quality assurance [within] their sectors.
“In every country PPEs are procured from specific companies. What saddens me is that other countries used this opportunity to foster industries in their own country. To have people who procure cheap products from China and sell to the state exorbitant extent is bewildering to me.”
Madonsela said it was not just millions of rands that had been lost, but that there was a possibility that some of the health workers on the frontline may have died either because PPE did not arrive or were not up to standard.
“This is just a tip of the iceberg. We have not yet looked into food parcels, economic relief funds and everyday procurement that is not related to Covid-19 in the same period.
“Nothing could have prepared us for the alleged extent of cruelty and greed. Where is compassion? Where is Ubuntu? Society needs to stand up and protect democracy because corruption is a threat,” Madonsela said.