South Africa

Daily Maverick 168 Op-Ed

Don’t forget the victims of corruption

Don’t forget the victims of corruption
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Esa Alexander)

The recent spate of arrests related to various accounts of corruption has given some hope that President Cyril Ramaphosa is trying to fulfil this promise.

First published in Daily Maverick 168

“We have never seen an ambulance in this area, so my children and my neighbours together with my relatives don’t bother to call one,” says Nofundike Sipatana, who has epilepsy and is often in need of urgent hospital care. Hers is the plight of many people who live in villages in the Eastern Cape, where access to ambulances is non-existent because either the roads are bad or emergency services don’t have enough resources due to corruption.

Many people in Bloemfontein have lung problems caused by living in houses with asbestos roofing. The Free State government awarded a contract of R255-million to fix roofs in 2014, yet most are yet to be repaired.

These dire, even fatal, outcomes are direct social consequences of what happens when funds meant for the public good do not reach their intended beneficiaries because of corrupt officials. Corruption has social, political and economic drivers and consequences. There are always victims and it is as important to dwell on them as it is to dwell on holding perpetrators accountable. Corruption is even more deplorable during a pandemic.

The Auditor-General’s report on Covid-19 funds was scathing. It highlighted mismanagement in the supply chain of Covid-19 funds, with “clear signs of overpricing, unfair processes, potential fraud”.

When the president stood in front of the nation on 23 July, he acknowledged that there were alleged reports of looting of Covid-19 funds. To deal with this, he authorised the Special Investigative Unit to investigate. The promise was that if anything improper was found, consequences would be swift and severe. The recent spate of arrests related to various accounts of corruption has given some hope that President Ramaphosa is trying to fulfil this promise. The arrests are welcome and continued investigations and accountability actions must be undertaken.

Public officials implicated in all Covid-19 funds looting have shown gross neglect of their duty and mandate; it is important that they face legal consequences. We would also do well to remember that this is not the end of the road in terms of accountability. The hopelessness that faces most South Africans is human-made and can be placed squarely at the feet of a leadership collective that has lost touch with its conscience.

The road to redemption will be measured by the improvement in the quality of life of South Africans because funds have actually been used to support people, rather than lining the coffers of politicians. It is when people like Sipatana can get access to ambulances because roads are fixed and ambulance services can easily reach them; when children in villages don’t have to walk long hours to attend schools; when these and other issues are attended to and solved, we will begin to have trust that our government is serious about fixing its thieving and inefficient ways.

Arrests and convictions are definitely an important step on the journey to a South Africa tough on corruption, especially around Covid-19 corruption, but it is not the only step. The government can regain the trust of South Africans by acknowledging what residents have lost. They must introduce measures to make sure this never happens again and that the work ahead will fix what is broken. A plan that will bring back hope and trust is one that shows that people’s needs will be met transparently and fairly. DM168

Dineo Rabaholo is a junior campaigner at


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Feeling powerless in politics?

Equip yourself with the tools you need for an informed decision this election. Get the Elections Toolbox with shareable party manifesto guide.