Opposition sceptical about Cabinet committee to investigate Covid-19 contracts

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DA interim leader John Steenhuisen.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen.
Jan Gerber/News24
  • The DA described the Cabinet committee to investigate Covid-19 procurement as "window dressing to create the illusion of action".
  • The EFF called it "nothing more than a public relations exercise aimed at misleading the people of South Africa".
  • Cope said it doesn't "have any trust in these ministers to investigate anything that has to do with corruption". 

Opposition parties reacted with cynicism to President Cyril Ramaphosa's appointment of a six-member Cabinet committee to deal with all allegations of corruption related to Covid-19 procurement.

Cabinet on Wednesday approved the establishment of this team.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen described the committee as "window dressing to create the illusion of action".

"This toothless gathering of ANC cadres has no real capacity to investigate and prosecute those involved. But more importantly, it has no motivation to do so either," he said in a statement.

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"Never, in 26 years of ANC government, has the ruling party ever found itself or its own members guilty of anything. It's not going to start doing so now. This Covid corruption committee will go the same dead-end route as the inter-ministerial bodies that investigated Nkandla and the Gupta landing at Waterkloof, and ended up exonerating every high-ranking ANC cadre. It's nothing but a whitewashing exercise."

He said South Africans want to see action from Ramaphosa and added that the DA, in May, proposed a special inspector-general to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to prevent the looting of Covid-19 funds.

"To date, the president and his Cabinet have refused to consider this proposal. The scale of the looting we have seen makes a mockery of his solemn vows back in March that Covid procurement corruption will not be tolerated, and that anyone implicated will face serious consequences," Steenhuisen said.

What is this Cabinet committee?

Who serves on the committee?

  • Justice Minister Ronald Lamola (convenor);
  • Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu;
  • Finance Minister Tito Mboweni;
  • Police Minister Bheki Cele;
  • Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu; and
  • Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

What is it supposed to do?

President Cyril Ramaphosa instructed all ministers and premiers to provide information on the names of companies and details of tenders and contracts that have been awarded in national departments, provincial governments and public entities during the period of the national state of disaster. It must then investigate these contracts and provide Ramaphosa with a report. Lamola said they will provide the information to law enforcement agencies. The information will also be made available to the public.

What isn't it supposed to do?

Lamola said the committee's work will not replace the investigations of the law enforcement agencies, who must continue without fear, favour or prejudice.

The EFF described the decision to establish the committee as "a waste of time, irrational" and indicative of the poor leadership of the Ramaphosa-administration.

In a statement, the party says ministers have failed to implement measures to prevent Covid-19 corruption in their departments.

"The executive is the one accused of corruption, wrongdoing, maladministration and negligence, and they, therefore, cannot be the same people who are investigating themselves," reads the statement.

'Public relations exercise'

"The establishment of the committee is, therefore, nothing more than a public relations exercise aimed at misleading the people of South Africa that government is fighting corruption whilst it is part of the problem."

The EFF says the government cannot investigate itself. It must be done by an external body, like law enforcement agencies.

READ | Mix of Covid-19 and other illnesses creates a 'toxic concoction', court hears

Last month, the EFF wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request an ad hoc committee to scrutinise all Covid-19 procurement.

COPE spokesperson Dennis Bloem said his party rejects the ministerial committee.

"We believe this is an insult to the people of the country," he said in a statement.

"We don't have any trust in these ministers to investigate anything that has to do with corruption. There are serious allegations against some of their colleagues, who are also suspects."

He said it is a criminal, not a political matter, and law enforcement agencies must investigate.

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