South Africa’s president has warned that he will deal harshly with officials and businesspeople who have allegedly enriched themselves during the COVID-19 crisis through corrupt activities.
“Corruption during a national disaster is a particularly heinous type of crime, and perpetrators are going to be dealt with decisively and harshly,” Cyril Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter as several cases of irregularities involving coronavirus-related tenders have been exposed in the local media.
Some of the complaints raised include corruption related to the manufacture of face masks, the distribution of food parcels and siphoning funds fraudulently through supposed awareness campaigns.
Ramaphosa said it is difficult to understand the utter lack of conscience that leads a businessperson who has heeded the call to provide lifesaving supplies during a devastating pandemic to inflate the price of a surgical mask by as much as 900%.
“Nor can one explain why a councilor would stockpile emergency food parcels meant for the poor for their own family, or why another councilor would divert water tankers en route to a needy community to their own home,” he said.
The president said attempting to profit from a disaster that is claiming the lives of people every day is the action of scavengers.
“It is like a pack of hyenas circling wounded prey,” he said.
He said as the country finds itself in the grip of the greatest health emergency it has faced in over a century, they are witnessing theft by individuals and companies with no conscience.
“We hear stories of alleged corruption in the procurement and deployment of personal protective equipment to fight COVID-19, of companies hiking the prices of essential items during the lockdown and of the illegal diversion of state resources meant for the vulnerable and destitute,” he wrote in his weekly newsletter.
South Africa has the highest number of cases of COVID-19 on the continent and the fifth highest in the world, having reported over half a million infections and nearly 9,000 deaths.
The president has vowed to firmly deal with those accused of corruption.
“Those found to have broken the law to enrich themselves through this crisis will not get to enjoy their spoils, regardless of who they are or with whom they may be connected,” he warned.
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