Controversies tainted SA’s COVID-19

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The coronavirus pandemic has brought with it many controversies and as we mark a year since it was first detected in our country, we look back at some of them.

From excessive police force to Personal Protective Equipment corruption, the arrival of COVID-19 in South Africa has brought with it many controversies.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced lockdown the first time (Level 5) aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, this saw the deployment of thousands of members of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) across the country to support the police to manage the nationwide lockdown.

This resulted in the death of Collins Khoza in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg. He died after he was allegedly assaulted by members of the force in his home. Khosa and his brother-in-law were having a drink inside their yard in April when they were accused of violating lockdown regulations.

After an investigation, the Military Ombudsman’s found that the soldiers acted improperly, irregularly and in contravention of their code of conduct.

The Ombud later recommended that the soldiers face appropriate disciplinary action. An earlier report by the SANDF had exonerated the soldiers.

In the video below, Khosa family demands answers:

Some social media posts showed videos and pictures of SANDF members forcing members of the public to perform physical exercises, in other posts the military personnel was seen beating civilians up and confiscating their groceries.

Further police brutality saw the tragic murder of Eldorado Park resident Nathaniel Julies. The 16-year-old who had down syndrome, was shot just a few metres from his home. The murder sparked unrest in the township resulting in community members damaging the local police station.

In the video below, his family members called for justice:

PPE tender corruption 

As South Africans grappled with adjusting to wearing masks, regularly washing of hands and social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus, healthcare workers, along with other frontline line workers, needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to perform their jobs.

This saw the government’s monumental task of acquiring PPE’s through the tender selection process. With it came corruption amounting to billions of rands.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is probing about 650 companies countrywide for PPE contracts worth more than R7.5 billion.

There are also probes under way into excessive pricing of goods required in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. One of the cases investigated by the SIU is the R125 million PPE contract awarded to a company linked to the late Thandisizwe Diko, the husband of Khusela Diko, the President’s spokesperson.

The Dikos are friends with former Gauteng Health MEC Dr. Bandile Masuku who has since been fired following preliminary findings by the SIU into PPE corruption.

Gauteng ANC asks Bandile Masuku and Khusela Diko to step aside pending probe:

Following the media’s exposure of corruption relating to the procurement of PPE, President Ramaphosa signed a proclamation ordering the SIU to probe this.

Ledla Structural Development tender 

The estimated R125 million PPE contract awarded to Ledla Structural Development caused a political storm after it emerged that Ledla was a front for Royal Bhaca projects owned by Thandisizwe Diko, a close friend of the then Gauteng Health MEC, Dr. Bandile Masuku.

Khusela has been forced into taking a leave of absence from her job.

The SIU had spent at least R70 million on investigating widespread corruption in the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by the end of December 2020.

Price gouging

In the midst of all of this, many companies saw an opportunity to excessively hike up prices to boost their profit margins.

In July 2020, the Competition Tribunal found Dis-Chem Pharmacies guilty of price gouging and fined it R1.2 million for selling surgical face masks at excessive prices. It was found that surgical face masks were increased by between 43 and 261%.

 Dis-Chem denies any price inflation: