OPINION | Fighting corruption in the time of Covid-19

There is often a shady business person that wants to pay off an unscrupulous public servant, says the writer. (iStock)
There is often a shady business person that wants to pay off an unscrupulous public servant, says the writer. (iStock)

What we need to keep reminding ourselves though, is that fighting corruption is everybody's business. Corruption remains the biggest enemy of development. 


While the country grapples the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality, it found itself having to deal with an invisible enemy – the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19).

South Africa joined many others in the world who embarked on a massive campaign to combat the rapid spread of the virus, which has already claimed thousands of lives globally.

To date, there is still no cure for this virus. 

Amongst the interventions announced was the total lockdown for twenty one days and subsequently extended by another two weeks. This was the country's attempt to flatten the curve of the new infections.

It also allowed the preparation of the country's health infrastructure to be able to deal with cases of Covid-19 as they increase. 

As it was expected the shutting down of major parts of the economy and the curtailing of movement of people, brought in a lot of inconveniences and hardship particularly to the most vulnerable members of society.

A number of companies were unable to generate any form of income to sustain their businesses and pay their workforce.  

To mitigate this reality the President announced a set of interventions for both business and for the ordinary citizens particularly the most vulnerable in society.

A number of South Africans have come out to pledge their support to those affected by the lockdown who are in dire need of both financial and food support.

Our spirit of Ubuntu has come out strongly as we support one another.

This is the South Africa we know and should continue to know. Amidst the good that we have witnessed in the past month, we regrettably still witnessed unbecoming acts of greed in some circles.

While these remain isolated incidents, it underscores the importance of redoubling our anti-corruption efforts, strengthening transparency and enhancing accountability. Let all of us not drop the ball in fighting corruption. 

The President came out strongly to reassure all of us that the law enforcement agencies will act decisively on those that exploit the plight of the poor.

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) has already announced that they are putting in processes to investigate any reported cases of corruption as they relate to Covid-19.

The Auditor-General has been directed to put systems in place to verify that relief monies are spent in line with what they are intended for. National Treasury has already provided procurement guidelines for this period.  

Through the department of Social Development government has also acted quickly to strengthen various measures to ensure that the relief support benefits those who need it the most. 

All this is an attempt to be proactive in the approach of preventing the abuse of the vulnerable members of society.  

What we need to keep reminding ourselves though, is that fighting corruption is everybody's business. Corruption remains the biggest enemy of development.

Where it thrives is when society becomes immune to reporting it. It robs the poor and the most vulnerable. It stifles development in any country. 

All the institutions that our constitutional democracy put in place to protect society, can only work if all of us use them, and also use our voices.

Let's report any acts of corruption whether in food parcel distribution, illegal tender awarding and any form of collusion between public servant(s) and private sector.

Let our voices be heard were justice and fairness must prevail. 

While we are doing everything we can to stamp out corruption and hold those responsible to account, we must appreciate that corruption never begins and ends with one person.

It takes two to commit an act of corruption, there is often a shady business person that wants to pay off an unscrupulous public servant. 

While the public sector is often singled out, corruption is in fact a broader societal problem to which the private sector and civil society is not immune. Let all of us be part of the solution.

If you are aware of corrupt activities use our toll-free National Anti-Corruption Hotline on 0800 701 701 to report it anonymously. Let us not tire to do the right thing for our country. 

Let us not allow acts of corruption to divert us from the real fight. We are fighting this invisible enemy called Covid-19.

It requires a lot of resilience from all of us.

It requires lots of resources to mitigate the hardships brought on us by the fight to reduce the spread of the virus.

It needs all of us to work together so as to ensure we return our country back to normality.

Let us continue to uphold healthy practices such as washing our hands regularly, maintaining social distancing and staying at home to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

Together we can defeat the virus and continue the fight to stop corruption. 

- Phumla Williams, Acting Director-General at GCIS

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