ANALYSIS | Gauteng tackled its PPE scandal. Now for the rest of ...

Ideas

ANALYSIS | Gauteng tackled its PPE scandal. Now for the rest of SA

Amid the looting linked to Covid-19 cash, at least the province has acted quickly against the dodgy tender

Journalist
Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku was suspended on Thursday.
Oops Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku was suspended on Thursday.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/The Sunday Times

Cynics were correct in expecting the worst when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a R500bn Covid-19 stimulus package in April.

It did not take long for the president’s comrades in charge of the government purse to start the looting.

At least Gauteng acted strongly against the alleged culprits on Thursday, even if it was only to save its own reputation and for fear of losing even more support among the electorate.

Like many kinds of grand looting schemes involving the ANC, the corruption started small, with allegations of councillors stealing food parcels meant for the poor.

That soon escalated and two weeks ago revelations of possible corruption hit home when Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, was placed at the centre of alleged dodgy dealings in the Gauteng department of health’s personal protection equipment (PPE) saga.

She must be commended for voluntarily taking leave of absence when her husband, Thandiziwe Diko, was revealed to be the sole owner of the Royal Bhaca company which won two tenders worth more than R100m.

Although she insists the company was not paid, the Diko family’s close ties to health MEC Bandile Masuku and his wife Loyiso, a City of Johannesburg mayoral committee member, have caused an uproar.

Allegations that the tenders were used to siphon money to bolster an ANC leadership campaign have also made matters worse, and the ANC had no choice but to act.

Even premier David Makhura, who is understood to consider Masuku a close ally, was left with no choice but to back the action against his health MEC, which called for him to step aside while an SIU probe is ongoing.

At a press briefing on Thursday Makhura made it clear that this was not an easy decision.

“My heart is sore that MEC Masuku, who has been doing such good work in helping us to respond to Covid, faces these allegations – but we can’t close our eyes to it. It does raise question marks on political leaders, on government work,” said Makhura.

Those who attended the ANC meeting that decided to suspend Masuku said although both he and Diko had asked to be taken to the provincial integrity committee, that action would not have been strong enough.

The party is said to have taken this stance out of fear that corruption allegations would cause damage in Gauteng, where the party nearly lost in the last elections.

Gauteng must be commended for the swift action it has taken. If Makhura is to be believed, his government blocked payments of more than R1bn to possible corrupt deals and took what seems to be swift action against implicated comrades.

The same energy needs to be replicated across the country, especially in provinces like the Eastern Cape.

The province is known to rise to the occasion in times of looting, having hit an all-time low when ANC “comrades” looted millions meant for activities linked to the funeral of Nelson Mandela.

Currently, its health department is in shambles, with its MEC, Sindiswa Gomba, the face of the comical R10m scooters tender for “ambulances” in rural communities.

Its transport MEC, Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, is embroiled in a scandal that saw the government hire a B&B owned by her daughter in Cala to quarantine Covid-19 patients.

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane must take a leaf from Makhura’s book, leave politics aside, and deal with Tikana-Gxothiwe and Gomba – and many like them.