The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a coalition partner with the ruling African National Congress (ANC), on Monday threatened to part ways if the ANC fails to curb corruption.
“We remain committed to partnering with the government to find solutions to many of the country’s problems but there will be a parting of ways between the federation and this administration if corruption is left unchecked, and workers are not protected against a deadly virus,” COSATU said in a statement.
The trade federation voiced alarm over “the catalogue of corruption scandals that have engulfed municipalities, government departments and state-owned entities recently.”
There have been allegations of politicians and their families involving in COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) tender irregularities and also of connected individuals illegitimately awarded contracts with state-owned enterprises, COSATU national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.
He said recent cases of corruption allegations help exemplify the prevalence of corruption at the highest levels of government and the close ties between the business and political elites.
The corruption scandals allegedly involve a number of individuals related with the ANC, including presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko, Gauteng provincial health official Bandile Masuku, ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule’s sons, Tshepiso and Thato, and even President Cyril Ramaphosa’s son Andile.
“This is a reminder that corruption remains the single biggest threat to the survival of this country and its economy,” Pamla said.
The corruption around PPE tenders has left many workers facing a deadly virus without the necessary protection and some have even lost their lives, according to Pamla.
While workers are facing death, politically connected individuals are being allowed to be “middle-men” for suppliers causing excessive and deliberate inflation of pricing points, he said. “We reiterate our call for the government to buy directly from actual manufacturers,” Pamla said.
COSATU is fully committed to leading its affiliates on a campaign against corruption, especially over the looting of PPE funds, he said.
“If the government is not willing to fight corruption and protect workers, the federation will encourage workers to fight back by any means necessary, including withdrawing their labor,” Pamla said.
COSATU urged President Ramaphosa to act fast to arrest this deterioration of the situation. “The president needs to act decisively and prove that his administration is not a powerless scarecrow with rubber teeth,” Pamla said.
Also on Monday, Ramaphosa acknowledged that as the country is in the grip of the greatest health emergency over a century, “we are witnessing theft by individuals and companies with no conscience.”
He warned that corrupt officials taking advantage of COVID-19 for personal profits will be dealt with “decisively and harshly.” “We are going to act boldly and must act together,” he said.