Covid-19 corruption could hamper economic recovery - Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation

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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu during a media briefing at the Cape Town Civic Centre on August 11, 2014 in Cape Town.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu during a media briefing at the Cape Town Civic Centre on August 11, 2014 in Cape Town.
PHOTO: Gallo Images/Roger Sedres
  • The Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation has spoken out against corruption in the procurement of Covid-19 supplies.
  • The foundation has warned that corruption will widen the inequality gap and hamper efforts to rebuild the economy.
  • Its statement comes after reports that several high-ranking government and ANC members were linked to the procurement of PPE tenders.

Corruption allegations relating to the procurement of Covid-19 supplies have eroded trust between the state and citizens, the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation said in a statement.

Several tender-related reports have emerged over the last few weeks on the involvement of the families of ANC members in the procurement of Covid-19 supplies.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko took a leave of absence, pending investigations into allegations involving her and her husband; Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and his wife were asked to "step aside"; former Gauteng premier and ANC NEC member Nomvula Mokonyane's daughter, Katleho, also reportedly benefitted; and PPE tenders worth millions of rand have reportedly been awarded to people who have ties to ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.

The foundation said: 

The allegations that South Africa's defences against Covid-19 have been turned into business opportunities for the politically connected are a massive setback for the country's integrity and post-pandemic economic landscape.

It believed that with each allegation, the trust deficit widened between the state and those "who may be enticed to grow the economy". Should investors not be willing to assist in rebuilding the economy after the pandemic, reducing systemic inequality would be significantly more challenging, it said.

The foundation referenced words by Archbishop Desmond Tutu from 1998: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance and there is no way in which you can assume that yesterday's oppressed will not become tomorrow’s oppressor. We have seen it happen all over the world, and we shouldn't be surprised if it happens here…"

Window of opportunity closing

The foundation also said "little has been done" to right wrongs committed over the last 20 years and there was a "culture of impunity when it comes to corruption".

The need for new, younger voices and leaders, with the energy and insight to reconstruct a less unequal society from the ashes of the pandemic, was becoming "glaringly obvious", it added.

"Corrupt leaders have been tolerated largely out of strong emotional bonds to the organisation and its group of exceptional leaders who ultimately prevailed in the long struggle against apartheid. Instead of acting against the corrupt, over the years, systems and individuals have been compromised and the state and ruling party have become increasingly factionalised."

It said the window of opportunity was closing for the state to show courage and muscle in holding culprits accountable, regardless of who they were.

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