South African President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted his left-wing African National Congress (ANC) party is “deeply implicated” in corruption as evidence continues to emerge of widespread “looting” of the country’s $26 billion rescue package.
Addressing Parliament on Thursday, Ramaphosa authorized the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to start probing allegations of graft related to the rescue packages, which was meant to help South Africans deal with the economic impact of the global pandemic.
“The allegations of corruption in the procurement of goods and services for our country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has caused outrage among South Africans and among us in the executive,” said Ramaphosa. “It is disgraceful that at this time of national crisis, there are companies and individuals who seek to criminally benefit from our efforts to protect people’s health and save lives.”
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) August 27, 2020
Allegations of graft emerged this month based on reports of suspect deals between government officials and businesses providing medical equipment used to combat the virus. Among those implicated include Ramaphosa’s own spokesperson, Khusela Diko, and Health Minister Bandile Masuku, both of whom were placed on leave while the investigations are ongoing.
In a letter sent last week to all party members and branches of the African National Congress (ANC), Ramaphosa warned that “our movement has been and remains deeply implicated in South Africa’s corruption problem.”
“What has caused the greatest outrage is that there are private sector companies and individuals (including civil servants) who have exploited a grave medical, social, and economic crisis to wrongfully enrich themselves,” the letter said. “This is an unforgivable betrayal for the millions of South Africans who are being negatively affected by the impact of COVID-19, experiencing hunger daily, hopelessness, and joblessness.”
South Africa has been one of the most severely hurt countries in the world by the coronavirus, recording more than 618,000 cases and over 13,500 deaths, according to the latest data. With a population of around 58 million, the mortality rate works out around 235.86 deaths per million, the highest in the African continent. The numbers may not properly reflect the relative damage the pandemic has done to South Africa compared to other countries as experts believe rogue states like Russia, China, and North Korea are reporting false data.
The country also ranks roughly in the middle of the 2019 Transparency International Corruption Index, ranking 70th out of 198 countries, an improvement on its 73rd place ranking from the previous year.
South Africa is not the only African country facing a corruption scandal related to the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the Health Minister of neighboring Zimbabwe, Obadiah Moyo, was arrested and charged with illegally awarding preferential contracts to the sum of $60 million USD. He is facing up to 15 years in jail.