Commander in chief Cyril Ramaphosa’s army are too busy stealing ammunition, food and other supplies to help him defeat the enemy - the coronavirus., says the writer. Picture: GCIS
Commander in chief Cyril Ramaphosa’s army are too busy stealing ammunition, food and other supplies to help him defeat the enemy - the coronavirus., says the writer. Picture: GCIS

Ramaphosa, get your troops in line before there's mutiny

By Opinion Time of article published Aug 2, 2020

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Victor Kgomoeswana

President Cyril Ramaphosa is the commander in chief of a contaminated army.

His colonels and lieutenants are too busy stealing ammunition, food and other supplies to help him defeat the enemy - the coronavirus.

When the blatant sabotage is reported to him and the public, he institutes long and costly investigations instead of court martialling the traitors. Then he goes back to the multilateral organisations to borrow more money.

Any commander in chief who fails to make an example of his officials might as well turn the guns on his own soldiers. He loses an opportunity to send a clear message that corruption will not be tolerated. Instead, he announces one investigation after another.

He then follows up this tinkering with the revelation of a $4.3billion (R70.7bn) loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Why borrow further - to buy masks, sanitisers and a bit of time for some of your country’s business - while investigating the disappearance of billions due to the negligence and/or corruption among your officers? Any chance that the IMF money will not be the subject of another commission of inquiry into Covid-19 corruption come the end of this year?

The Treasury said the IMF approved the “request for emergency financial support under the Rapid Financing Instrument” to help in the fight against the pandemic.

The commander in chief, however, is leading the fight while the actions by some members of his army are as good as turning their weapons on his own people. Some of their decisions and actions are baffling and counter-productive. Not so long ago, the MEC in charge of health in Gauteng, the epicentre of the pandemic, was talking of digging graves instead of throwing more resources at expanding the capacity to cater for recovering patients.

The Eastern Cape spent R10 million to buy 100 motorcycles to transport patients, which were first lauded then denounced by the linchpin of the National Command Council, Dr Zweli Mkhize.

In acquiring additional IMF funding, at 1.1% according to the Treasury, the one side of the government is doing its best to raise much-needed help while the other is doing everything to sap all the morale from a punch-drunk public.

African countries are too indebted. Jaime Atienza of Oxfam Intermon wrote: “As of April 2019, according to the IMF, half of African Low Income Countries are either in debt distress or at high risk of being so; and transparency gaps suggest stocks are significantly higher than accounted for.” This was before the Covid-19 crisis.

South Africa, whose economy was stagnant and will shrink by double digits this year, is proving Atienza right with reports of malfeasance eating into essential supplies and food parcels for the indigent.

How can we be sure that the $4.3bn will not suffer the same fate? How can we trust our commander in chief to stop the rot while he deals with impropriety on the battlefield by announcing investigations instead of uprooting those even remotely linked with the acts of treason? Either President Ramaphosa acts decisively against the traitors in his command structure and army or he will soon deal with a mutiny.

* Victor Kgomoeswana is author of Africa is Open for Business, media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs.

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