Coronavirus graft scandal batters credibility of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

WION Web Team
Johannesburg, South Africa Published: Aug 19, 2020, 09:23 AM(IST)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The outcry began with reports that local government officials were hoarding and selling food donations meant for families without income during lockdown.

South Africa is reeling from coronavirus-linked corruption scandals that have battered President Cyril Ramaphosa's credibility and the country's image abroad, but spurred unprecedented efforts to boost transparency.

The outcry began with reports that local government officials were hoarding and selling food donations meant for families without income during lockdown.

Then some hospitals found that state purchases of masks, gowns and other protective equipment (PPE) were not reaching staff.

But anger reached its zenith when funds from a landmark $29 billion relief package went missing. Newly-unemployed South Africans queued for hours for grants in chilly winter mornings, only to be told their share of the aid was not available.

Also read: South Africa re-instates curfew, booze ban as coronavirus cases spike

"That corruption is more real than previous cases when money was stolen from (state-owned enterprises) Eskom and Transnet," said economic analyst Thabi Leoka.

"When hungry families are waiting for food packages, the realness of it is just very stark."

Scandals moved up the political chain last month, when the husband of presidential spokeswoman Khusela Diko was accused of securing a multimillion-rand contract for protective gear.

Further probes into coronavirus equipment tenders have since thrown other high-profile figures into the limelight.

They include ruling African National Congress (ANC) party secretary-general Ace Magashule and top health official Bandile Masuku. 

Ramaphosa has vowed to go after individuals and companies behaving like a "pack of hyenas circling wounded prey".

South Africa is no stranger to graft. The ruling ANC forced ex-president Jacob Zuma to step down over corruption allegations in 2018. 

He was accused of systematically plundering government coffers during his nine-year reign in a scandal known as "state capture".

"When corruption emerges in a situation that thrusts the issue of trust and social compact into focus... the stakes are higher," said Karam Singh, head of investigations at the South Africa-based Corruption Watch.  

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