WATCH | Defend Our Democracy 'worried' health institutions may become sites of looting, corruption

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  • Defend Our Democracy said health institutions could become sites of looting and corruption. 
  • The group held a picket outside the Gauteng legislature on Wednesday afternoon.  
  • The organisation said there was a need to root out corruption in Gauteng. 

A small group of people from civic organisation Defend Our Democracy, as well as other civil society representatives, held a picket outside the Gauteng provincial legislature on Wednesday afternoon.

The picket focused on corruption in health institutions.

The group said it was "angered" that the country's health institutions could become sites of looting and corruption.

Speaking to News24 at the picket, Neeshan Balton, of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said corruption in the country seemed to have been "normalised and gets accepted".

"What this demonstration is about is pointing to the need to root it [corruption] out, particularly from the health sector in Gauteng, where we have seen the most disastrous effect during Covid and at a time when you least expect it," he said.

The group sang and danced outside the legislature.

protests,defend our democracy
Defend Our Democracy held a protest outside the Gauteng legislator. (Alfonso Nqunjana/ News24)

They held placards, some of which read: "Act against corruption", "United in action against corruption", and "Justice for Babita Deokaran" (a Gauteng health whistleblower who was assassinated).

The demonstration took place during the anti-corruption and whistleblower week.  

A memorandum was handed over to Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi's office, which stated: "We express the concern that many feel about the debilitating public healthcare system, which is under severe strain.

"It both worries and angers us that our health institutions may be becoming sites of looting, corruption and state capture.

"The crime of stealing from the poor, the ill and the marginalised in order to live a lavish lifestyle is atrocious. It takes a certain kind of depravity to steal money meant for medicine, life support systems, for hospital beds, and for more doctors and nurses to ease the strain on those already overworked in public health facilities."

protests,defend our democracy
Defend Our Democracy held a protest outside the Gauteng legislator. (Alfonso Nqunjana/ News24)

News24 previously reported that Deokaran had tried to stop R100 million in "possibly fraudulent" payments, and had flagged other transactions valued at R850 million out of Tembisa Hospital. 

Three weeks before Deokaran was assassinated outside her home, she reported the anomalous spending to suspended provincial health department CFO Lerato Madyo and called for a forensic investigation.

In August, Madyo and the head of Tembisa Hospital, Ashley Mthunzi, were placed on precautionary suspension, with immediate effect.

The suspensions came as the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) began probing suspicious payments, totalling R850 million, made by the hospital to various entities, many of them shell companies.

The organisation called for the Gauteng government to update the public about the SIU investigation into alleged corruption at the hospital.  

protests,defend our democracy
Defend Our Democracy held a protest outside the Gauteng legislator. (Alfonso Nqunjana/ News24)
protests,defend our democracy
Defend Our Democracy held a protest outside the Gauteng legislator. (Alfonso Nqunjana/ News24)

News24 reported that Lesufi said four businesspeople plundered the finances of Tembisa Tertiary Hospital.

This was after Lesufi and MECs visited the hospital on Wednesday.

He said that, next week, he would release the preliminary SIU report on corruption at the hospital.

Defend our Democracy wants other hospitals to be investigated to ascertain if alleged looting is being employed elsewhere. 

The organisation also wants the government to suspend tenders of any business currently under investigation by the SIU.  

The organisation said that businesses and owners found to be complicit in corruption should also be blacklisted. 

It also wants public servants, who are found to be complicit in corruption, to be fired and for the Gauteng government to ensure they face criminal charges. 

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