South Africa

EDITORIAL

Two years after pandemic corruption, SA politicians once again commit a crime against humanity

Illustrative image | Sources: eThekwini Municipality logo. (Image: Supplied) | Women cry in the aftermath of heavy flooding in Clermont on 13 April 2022 in Durban. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | A search and rescue team recovers the body of girl aged between four and six at the Umzinyathi Falls near Durban on 19 April 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / STR) | Destruction in Clermont on 13 April 2022 in Durban. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | A road tanker washed up on a Durban beach amid floods and heavy rain on 12 April 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | Hundreds of shipping containers washed away by floodwaters near Durban on 13 April 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / STR) | Adobe Stock)

It is time to consider and define the theft and corruption of disaster relief funding as a crime against humanity, a treason against the people.

When devastating floods struck KwaZulu-Natal on 11 April, South Africans’ first response was to commiserate with their compatriots. Their next response was to warn against giving a cent to the government and loudly proclaim that their donations were going to organisations like the Gift of the Givers. 

It’s no wonder.

Within days, news emerged that eThekwini Council members were trying to hijack donations meant for the rescuers looking for the dead and the desperate.

No doubt they were trying to divert these to patron politicians to use for self-interest. The donations were a sign of human solidarity — not the grease of patronage.

Then, on the Easter weekend, the province’s premier, Sihle Zikalala, had a water tanker diverted to his house in La Mercy, Durban. He bluffed and blustered at first, saying his home was a centre of community care and welfare led by his wife.

disaster relief kwazulu-natal zikalala corruption
A screenshot from a video that went viral showing a tanker delivering water to KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala’s home. (Screenshot: TikTok)

By the end of the week, he apologised (with more bluster, it must be said) as calls grew for his head. 

The patronage, the aggrandisement and the abuse of power were so blatant that they took many by surprise. It also did not surprise millions more of us. We expect democracy-defying thievery and puffed-up political behaviour as par for the course. The time for that must surely be over. 

It is time to consider and define the theft and corruption of disaster relief funding as a crime against humanity, a treason against the people.

We’ve seen it before. Last year, after the first deaths from Covid-19 were tallied, the hyenas assembled when the government released disaster funding. Fly-by-night companies were set up by cadres who had inside knowledge of what contracts were coming up, hunting in packs, as the Special Investigating Unit of advocate Andy Mothibe and his team have shown. 

Stealing from your own people is a crime; stealing during the pandemic is a crime against humanity

 

Masks, medicines, and sanitisers were priced for super-profits and sold into the public sector, which was buckling under the pressure of the sick and the dying. Useless pandemic fripperies like fogging equipment and chemicals were sold to schools and government buildings. Fogging defied science, but civil servants in cahoots with politicians paid billions of rands and made fortunes which they splurged on parties, cars and other bling goods.

Others built hospital extensions for Covid-19 patients which haven’t been used to this day. As Maverick Citizen has revealed, these hospitals look like latter-day concentration camps and are abandoned mainly because they are so poorly built and unsuited to care and healing. Companies with politically connected owners made fortunes to fund the lifestyles of the rich and wannabe famous.

Gauteng’s ‘new’ R1.2bn Covid-19 ICU hospitals still lie abandoned, unfinished or underused

 

The numbers are still coming in, but up to 300,000 people in South Africa may so far have succumbed to Covid-19. The cemeteries are overflowing, and peoples’ lives have been devastated by the pandemic, with joblessness higher than it’s ever been. Desperation is everywhere and KwaZulu-Natal has been hit three times.

First by the pandemic, second by the insurrection and looting in July 2021 and now by the deadly floods that have claimed at least 435 lives and left thousands of people destitute. 

Homes and shacks in Durban, built on floodplains and hills, show the paucity of planning by the ANC-led council. The council is the centrepiece in the story of looting and mismanagement that has come to define the governing party nearing its third decade in power.

Corruption is so much a part of the party’s governing culture that neither the council nor Zikalala could understand why people were so angry at the greed displayed for all to see.

There is, however, a silver lining.

It’s clear that good South Africans have had enough and have lost their fear of rotten politicians. A community good Samaritan parked her car in front of council officials and revealed their plan to hijack donations.

In the premier’s suburb, where he personalised a water tanker delivery (he had it diverted there from the disaster zone it was en route to), the community put the delivery on TikTok and blasted it on to phones throughout the country.

Armed with their phones and social platforms, from TikTok to Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, the people of South Africa have shown that they have had enough, that they have lost their fear.

Whereas the tech platforms can harm, this week they became a force for good wielded by active citizens.

Therein lies a lesson. Zikalala should have tendered his resignation by now. Mxolisi Kaunda, the mayor of eThekwini, filled his Facebook page with posts demanding former president Jacob Zuma’s release in July last year while his city was burning.

Neither will resign, but that does not mean that we cannot say that their crimes are treason — a crime against humanity. DM

 

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All Comments 28

    • If you are waiting for this lame duck excuse for a President to act, you are going to wait a very long time.
      He is already seen as something MUCH worse than a “man of straw”.
      He is seen as being complacent. The fact that criminals such as Sweili Mhkize still gets a government salary should have all the masses up and protesting. Yet, nothing happens. Nothing ever happens.
      Cyril Ramaphosa is there to protect the ANC. Not South Africa. Not the poor people. As he always refer to as: “our people” . “His people” are the fat cat criminal ACN cadres.
      He is there to streamline the looting processes so that it is not as blatant and arrogant is it was in the Zuma years.

      Why did Hermione Cronje really resign? Could it be that she really wanted to do her job but was hamstrung by the forever bone idle Shamila Batohi.
      It is also becoming clearer and clearer that Shamila Batohi is politically compromised.

      How is it possible that she has not make even ONE case stick that came from Zondo? She is either extremely useless at her job or she is very good at it.
      All about perspectives.
      You decide.

  • Zikalala and Gumede are just part of a long long list of officials who should have been fired. Corruption kills! And yes, it is a crime against humanity. Unfortunately the NPA is quite useless – but is it not possible to launch a class action against government, local or provincial? It would be supported by millions! And maybe these sociopaths would have to face the consequences of their action. It would be a great day.

    • Exactly what do you mean by “face the consequences”? I see so many articles and comments about how the ANC has failing everything and everyone for the past 20+ years. It’s old news by now and yet I see nothing about how it will be rectified and with an effective deterrent to prevent it from happening again.

    • I think it’s unfair to say the NPA are ‘useless’. They are under resourced, and have thousands of cases to deal with.
      It would be great if they could prioritise those against corrupt politicians, but then they would be accused of bias against the ANC.
      The way the ANC is structured, having complete control over the government and President, I understand it is a balancing act for CR to take action against corrupt politicians and officials. If he is too hard, he may lose in December, and the RET may gain power, which would be disastrous for the country.
      However, I wish he would take the chance, and he may find he has more support than he realises.

  • You wouldn’t publish my comments if I expressed my feelings of disgust in words I’d like to use. One thing is for sure, the President is NOT serious about fighting corruption. Where is his expression of disgust?

  • I will only believe your alleged “silver lining” when good South Africans stop supporting political parties that do not act decisively against corruption and thuggery. The most obvious offenders are the ANC and EFF. At the end of the day, the people are getting the government they deserve because they either do not vote or vote for thugs. Finish and klaar….

  • Until “our time to feed” mentality is done away with nothing will change, unfortunately it seems KZN suffers from the worst case, encouraged by the thief in chief Zuma.

  • It really is a crying shame that in this day and age that we have a political party that is so hell bent on being corrupt that they even re-elect corrupt leaders, and we have yet to see anyone don a orange overall for their effort, further proof that they will carry on without shame because our justice and tax system seems to favor the looters.

  • Time for the media to support the democratic opposition! Instead of blasting them when they tell the truth (News24 versus Zille)

  • Why are the opposition parties not pushing for a vote of no confidence in Zikalala? By not forcibly pushing for action they may be seen as complicit in these crimes against the people. I fear the DA and IFP elected officials are not strong enough to stand up for the people of KZN. If this happened in the Cape legislature I am sure action would have been taken against the politicians involved, but not here in KZN, where nothing of any consequence ever happens to public servants who involve themselves in crime. In fact, like Gumede, the ANC promotes these people.!!!!
    From what I can see, they have done nothing keep this current attempt of the ANC right out there in the public eye,

  • It is very heartening to see that civil society is starting to push back against corrupt and useless politicians. This process would gain momentum if :
    1) The President were to use his executive power more resolutely, effectively and directly.
    2) He could do so by acting harshly against ALL public servants who commits what you now describe as a “crime against humanity”.
    3) He should summarily dismiss these people from their posts and cancel all benefits accruing to them. They might not like it but they can fight it through the courts AT THEIR EXPENSE
    4) Appoint (not deploy) someone with legal training in his office to deal exclusively with these criminals. Madonsela?
    5) Make it clear to Ministers, Provincial Premiers, mayors and department heads that they would be expected to do likewise and that failure to do so would result in their removal on the same basis as per 3 above
    6) Actively and aggressively seek out miscreants and deal with them
    7) Encourage and enable the media to track down and report back on these “crimes against humanity”
    8) Encourage communities to expose these “crimes against humanity” and reward individuals who do so

    There also needs to be an immediate end to criminals in government using the courts to avoid being punished for their crimes. They treat due process with contempt and it is time that the judiciary does the same to them

    • Brilliant synopsis. The only point I disagree on “4) Appoint (not deploy) someone with legal training in his office to deal exclusively with these criminals. Madonsela?” I don’t think that anybody should be appointed through the President’s office. It gives too much power to the President. When another overtly corrupt President is elected, they would trump up some rubbish against Madonsela to get rid of her, because she would not cooperate with them. Whilst someone like Mkhwebane would happily cooperate with corruption and graft.

  • Resign? I do not think the ‘all-wise’ ANC cadres know the meaning of the word or, if they did, it just means another higher post in another department with the same ludicrously high salary and, of course, all the lovely perks! But resign? For the good of the country and its people? Dream on.

  • To this date, no senior (and probably no middle) ANC politicians have gone to prison for corruption. And while the crooked politicians spin out court cases, all other crooked politicians believe that they too will be able to spin out court cases indefinitely should they be prosecuted. What we need right now is for the NPA to finalise , say, 5 cases really quickly and for the courts to impose really hefty sentences to strike fear into the hearts of crooked politicians. Only when this happens will there be any deterrent looking forward.

    • …strike fear into… no problem! Appeal, appeal to a higher court, appeal to the highest court, ask for prosecutor to be replaced, Sue the judge for bias. And on…and on… and on! The constitution needs to restrict this behaviour. Does ‘Treason’ still carry the Death sentence?

  • Good article. The 1st line, about classifying the looting as treason, is unrealistic though. If the current laws and societal norms cannot shape peoples behaviour, then some more laws is not going to make a difference. We just need to start applying current laws. Maybe shift the focus from pettty crimes to the more serious stuff?

  • Well said!
    If South Africa has another “insurrection”, surely the people should understand that it should be against these criminal politicians, rather than against the people and companies that provide goods and services??!!

  • How sad is it that we seem to be in a war for the soul of South Africa? How sad is it that the poor and vulnerable are the worst affected? How sad it is that the voting fodder of the ANC are least likely to have access to twitter, tiktok, facebook or any other social media where the outrage of the ‘informed’ is on display. The decline in support for the ANC is probably too slow to be meaningful. We all have to look inward and to ourselves to decide how best to avoid the slide into the abyss of chaos that looms ever closer. Answers there seem few.

  • So, Zikalala and his fellow cadres are once again neck deep in corruption, theft and dishonesty. The ANC once again only sees fault in getting caught.
    What on earth did you expect?
    Did you ever, really think that the likes of Zikalala and his cronies would put the poor, destitute people first?

  • And East Coast Radio fell for it hook line and sinker if I heard their radio pseudo-chat between the Breakfast show hosts, correctly. His Master’s Voice and Lord HAW HAW are at it again despite being alerted to their tacit support for politicians during the Covid crisis.

  • I initially was hopeful that Cyril will at last make corrupt officials face criminal charges and that the prosecution would make water tight cases resulting in jail time. I had hoped a revamped NPA would function efficiently and speedily. I lived in hope that this wonderful land would be led by people of calibre. As each day passes, bringing to light more corrupt activities and also just blatant incompetence, l find it harder to remain optimistic.
    If you think about it just about every government service provider has spawned an equivalent private sector provider. Police services now replaced by private Security companies, couriers to do the post offices work, private schools to replace government schools, private hospitals to replace provincial hospitals, taxis to replace train services, etc etc. We have a parallel universe, the public one, that doesn’t function, but we pay for through taxes, and the private one that we pay for that works. The public services are bloated with mainly incompetent cadres and the private ones are streamlined and fuction. I am not sure how this situation can ever be resolved whilst people vote blindly on colourful promises.

  • ‘ . . . and peoples’ lives have been devastated by the pandemic . . .’ I really wish that journalists, and especially the Daily Maverick, since they are so concerned with representing ‘the truth’, would reflect that ‘the pandemic’ – which is merely a definition of a state of affairs – has hardly devastated anything at all. It has been the lock-down measures inflicted by the authorities (that affected everyone but themselves – hello?) that caused the destruction – on the already ailing economy, on families, on schooling, on businesses, on industry, on people’s sanity, on livelihoods, on recreation, on every single aspect of our lives. Worldwide an overwhelming 99.5% (Worldometer – before the milder Omicron) who contracted the virus had only a MILD infection. In SA Covid deaths are just 0.15% of population (most complicated by co-morbidities – hello?). For comparison, deaths from TB, also highly contagious, is at about the same rate over two years (Stats SA).
    The virus is one thing. The authoritarian, unilateral, megalomanic, irresponsible, unconstitutional restrictions on basic freedoms are quite another. Please DM, cut the BS, grow some spherical appendages (which you have in abundance in other areas) and call a spade a spade. Come on

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