South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed readiness to “decisively and harshly” deal with alleged looters of state funds meant to ease the pain of the coronavirus pandemic during the current four-month lockdown, APA has learnt.The president said this on Monday in response to public complaints of his government’s handling of the US$29 billion in relief funds given to institutions and individuals which have not properly been accounted for due to alleged “looting” by officials.
The relief funds were expected to help fight the pandemic through the buying of needed medical equipment for hospitals and health workers, plus cushioning those who lost their jobs due to the lockdown by paying them US$20 a month in relief funds.
According to the allegations, the relief funds have instead been used to buy personal protective equipment at inflated prices, food parcels are stockpiled instead of being distributed to the needy, and other state resources are illegally diverted from the vulnerable and destitute.
Ramaphosa said all these shenanigans would soon come to a stop, describing the malpractices as “heinous” and that the perpetrators would be dealt with “decisively and harshly.”
“Attempting to profit from a disaster that is claiming the lives of our people every day is the action of scavengers,” Ramaphosa said.
He added: “As we find ourselves in the grip of the greatest health emergency our country has faced in over a century, we are witnessing theft by individuals and companies with no conscience.”
Unfortunately, the “insidious behaviour” was not limited to smaller companies but large corporates as well, he said, adding that some have already been caught, investigated, found guilty and fined for excessive pricing.
He admitted that “these stories have caused outrage among South Africans.”
“They have opened up the wounds of the state capture era, where senior figures in society seemed to get away with corruption on a grand scale.”
This, he said, was threatening to undo the recent work done by his government to disrupt and dismantle “the networks that had infiltrated the previous government (of President Jacob Zuma), state companies and even our law enforcement agencies to loot public resources.”
Covid-19 has infected 516,862 people and claimed 8,539 lives since the disease broke out five months ago in South Africa, according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.