Corruption emanating from the ruling party threatens to undo the gains it has made over the last 26 years, President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasised in a letter to ANC members on Sunday.
Let this be a turning point in our fight against corruption. pic.twitter.com/qw8MCZl9Li
— Cyril Ramaphosa ???????? #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) August 23, 2020
He explained that corruption in South Africa has deep roots, starting with the “morally and materially corrupt” apartheid regime.
When the ANC came into power in 1994, Ramaphosa said the party sought to bring “a new era of integrity, honesty and ethical conduct by all in positions of responsibility”.
The consequent anger of the general public towards the ruling party’s conduct is “understandable and justified”, as the ANC now finds itself unable to take the moral high ground while embroiled in the ongoing PPE and Covid-19 response corruption scandal.
This, he said, “is an unforgivable betrayal,” and exacerbated the country’s existing hunger and unemployment issues.
The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has picked up on at least 17 corrupt tender awards in which “politically exposed persons” were involved, as reported by The Citizen this week. These tenders alone are valued at R1.2 billion.
Many companies awarded PPE tenders were registered in completely different sectors, such as pubs, IT companies, car washes, bakeries and event management companies.
Sars has launched a national revenue recovery plan project to fast-track the recovery of funds.
A ministerial committee has also been appointed to assist with Covid-19 looting investigations, and is establishing additional commercial crimes courts to clear backlogs and deal with corruption as soon as possible.
South Africa’s corruption during the pandemic was further highlighted when World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus labelled Covid-19 related graft as being tantamount to murder.
“Any type of corruption is unacceptable,” Tedros told a virtual news conference.
“However, corruption related to PPE… for me it’s actually murder. Because if health workers work without PPE, we’re risking their lives. And that also risks the lives of the people they serve. So it’s criminal and it’s murder and it has to stop,” he said.
Ramaphosa touched on local ANC leaders who have used food parcels destined for the poor to “buy political favours from those people in the branch or broader community who they rely on for their positions. These practices quite literally take food out of the mouths of the poor.”
Ongoing corruption is tainting the already fragile credibility of the ANC and Ramaphosa, and by proxy, the inherited legacy of Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and the late former president Nelson Mandela.
“Despite the clear progress we have made since the election, we still have to give full effect to the promise we made,” Ramaphosa said.
“The ANC may not stand alone in the dock, but it does stand as Accused No. 1. This is the stark reality that we must now confront.”
Ramaphosa has committed, along with the ANC’s National Executive Council, to “draw a line in the sand”.
“The time has come for the ANC to be unflinching in restoring the values, ethics and standing of our organisation. Our deeds must, always, match our words.”
He said those charged with corruption must “insulate” the ANC “from reputational damage arising from their personal challenges by stepping aside while their cases are being heard”.
Among the solutions listed by Ramaphosa, one suggests lifestyle audits of all ANC leaders, public representatives, senior public services and leaders of public entities, and to develop “a clear policy on ANC leaders and their family members doing business with the State”.
He said a societal response against corruption must be mobilised, and that transparency and accountability must be ensured.
Ramaphosa called for tenders to be made public and accessible, before it is awarded, and suggested an anti-corruption hotline be established for “ordinary people to report corruption”.
“Those who see the ANC as a path to wealth, to power, to influence or status must know that they do not belong in our movement. They must change their ways or they must leave,” he asserted.
To read Ramaphosa’s full letter, click here.