South Africa - Durban - 10 December 2020 - Zandile Gumede former eThekwini mayor greets her supporters after appearing at Durban magistrate court on corruption charges. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)
South Africa - Durban - 10 December 2020 - Zandile Gumede former eThekwini mayor greets her supporters after appearing at Durban magistrate court on corruption charges. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

2020 through the political lense - PPE corruption, Covid-19 scandals and high profile court battles

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published Dec 31, 2020

Share this article:

The year 2020 is the year most South Africans would like to forget about - quickly.

In South Africa, local politicians; high profile business people, the Zondo Commission; Eskom and notably the VBS Mutual Bank equally competed with Covid-19 for headline news this year.

While the outbreak happened in Wuhan, China in November last year - South Africans were warned to be on the alert since January - but locally it was the battle between former president Jacob Zuma and the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture chaired by deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that caught the media attention.

The commission was contemplating serving with summonses to appear before it, following his withdrawal in July last year - but he served them with a medical certificate that he was undergoing medical process between January 6 until 9 when he was due to make his second appearance.

As the Commission was due to set a new date - Zuma served them with another letter - in it he said he would only be available after March, as he would be receiving medical attention overseas. This again stalled his appearance.

While at it, South Africa experienced its first case of Covid-19 - the patient was a 38-year-old male who had travelled to Italy with his wife. They were part of a group of 10 people who arrived back in South Africa on March 1, 2020.

The patient consulted a private general practitioner on March 3, with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough. The practice nurse took swabs and delivered it to the lab.

As the numbers increased, President Cyril Ramaphosa halted all public events including the Human Rights Celebrations on March 21 commonly known as Sharpeville Day in memory of those killed in 1960.

On March 23, due to the surge of the pandemic - Ramaphosa announced the enforcement of the nation-wide lockdown for 21 days which came into effect on 26 March. Ramaphosa also announced various relief measures such as Temporary Employment Relief Schemes and gave temporary relief funds for pensions and child grant support.

The relief measures were part of the R500 billion to fight the pandemic and secure personal protective equipment (PPEs) for frontline workers - an emergency relief which was abused by those in influential offices in the country.

Prior to the announcement, the South African Reserve Bank brought a sigh of relief to bond holders when it announced the repo rate by 100 basis point. Ramaphosa also announced various relief measures such as Temporary Employment Relief Schemes and gave temporary relief funds for pensions and child grant support. The Army was also roped in to ensure compliance with Covid-19 only for some of them to be implicated for the brutal murder of Collins Khoza on Good Friday.

While under the lockdown - the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) served former Ethekwini mayor Zandile Gumede with a warrant of arrest for her alleged role in the R389 million waste management scandal. Gumede made her first appearance in May alongside her senior municipal officials. In August, she was appointed to the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature despite criminal charges against her.

On June 1, Ramaphosa relaxes Covid-19 regulations and places the country under lockdown Level 3. The ban on alcohol sale was also lifted but not cigarettes. This led to various court challenges against the government. Soon after the relaxation, Hawks and NPA pounced on eight executives of the formerly VBS Mutual Bank for their role in the looting of R1.9 billion “Great Bank Heist”. They are due to appear again in February.

Again - the focus was on the Zondo Commission - who summoned various Eskom officials for several malfeasance including the appearance of former Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane who was accused of having received bribes from Bosasa for more than 15 years.

During the same period in July, the Special Investigative Unit lined several Gauteng Health officials to the R1.9 billion irregular issuing of PPE tenders. Also implicated was former Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku and Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko. Masuku was later relieved of his duties in October - but has lodged a court challenge against his dismissal.

This was during the same time that the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was battling to interdict a parliamentary impeachment process against her but she lost her fight last month after the Western Cape dismissed her appeal. In party politics - the DA became embroiled in serious racial tensions - which also led to the resignation of John Moodey as Gauteng DA leader.

It was a few days after the incumbent John Steenhuisen was formerly elected party leader following a bruising battle with former Youth Leader Mbali Ntuli.

The governing ANC was also not spared from any controversy - its senior members were charged with various counts of corruption including the party machine and secretary Ace Magashule. Magashule was charged with fraud, corruption and money laundering related to the R255m asbestos scandal. But the implicated officials - due the ANC’s widening factional battles - still remain in office.

On November 19, Zuma walked out of the Zondo Commission after his application for the recusal of Justice Zondo was dismissed and now the Constitutional Court has been asked to order him to return and answer to state capture allegations against him

While political uncertainty in the country - a Limpopo matric pupil secured landmark victory in the ConCourt after the court ordered the Minister of Basic Education to allow him to write his Business Studies Paper 2 after his principal prevented him from doing so on November 25.

The ruling was made on December 28. It was the same day that Ramaphosa returned the country to adjusted lockdown Level 3.

Again alcohol was banned, beaches closed and restaurants and bars ordered not to sell alcoholic beverages. South Africans now face jail or hefty fines if they do not wear masks in public places.

All of them are expected to be in their houses from 9pm until 6am for the duration of the curfew which would last until January.

Political Bureau

Share this article:

Related Articles