Parliament’s presiding officers – Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise and National Council of Province’s chairperson Amos Masondo – said the “brazen” Covid-19 corruption goes against everything South Africa stands for as a nation.
Modise and Masondo spoke out in a joint statement to mark Heritage Day.
They said 24 September was declared a public holiday in recognition and celebration of our cultural wealth and diversity as a nation.
“It is about celebrating South Africa’s rich tapestry of people (who the apartheid regime sought to divide and rule on the basis of race), with their varying languages and cultures, human solidarity, human dignity, unity and respect, among other things.
“It is about observing what unites us, what makes us stronger to withstand testing times, as we build a truly non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous nation,” their statement read.
Modise and Masondo said that, through unity of purpose, partnerships and synergies, the country had prevailed against Covid-19.
“As the battle continues, we pay tribute to all frontline workers, at the heart of our fight against the pandemic, for their courage, their noble selflessness.”
Modise and Masondo said rebuilding the economy after Covid-19 would require all South Africans to tap into what they should regard as their common heritage – the spirit of Ubuntu – by ensuring a united front to tackle socio-economic hardships.
“Unfortunately, as the nation is battling this unprecedented challenge, some individuals and companies have sought to unscrupulously benefit from this devastating crisis by embezzling funds intended to save lives, particularly of the poor,” they said.
“Such brazen disregard for the sanctity of life and the greediness goes against everything we should stand for as a nation, particularly during a crisis of this magnitude.
“We strongly condemn such rampant acts of corruption and urge the criminal justice system to leave no stone unturned in bringing justice, particularly to the poorest of the poor.”
Modise and Masondo called on South Africans to mark Heritage Day by recommitting to root out the ills in society.
“These include the violence which continues to cast a pall of fear on the people of our beautiful land – our women and children in particular.”
They said they were heartened by law enforcement agencies’ commitment to act against perpetrators, and they trust that this would happen with speed.
They encouraged South Africans to make representations on the three gender-based violence (GBV) bills currently before Parliament.
“But laws, alone, are not enough,” the presiding officers stated.
“As we continue to work together to mitigate the health and economic effects of Covid-19, so, too, let us also work together to change the environment which allows corruption, violence and other social ills to flourish.
“We must become one another’s keepers, looking out for one another, not looking away.
“Let us, united in our diversity, build that prosperous South Africa, in which the quality of life for all is improved and the potential of each person is freed.
“We owe it to ourselves, to those who sacrificed so much to bring about our democracy and to the generations who will follow us.”