Picketers demand jail time for looters of Covid-19 funds

Campaign highlights the devastating impact of corruption on lives

By Nokulunga Majola

21 September 2020

Dozens of activists clad in orange masks picket near Kenneth Kaunda Road in Durban North to demand that looters of Covid-19 funds be jailed. They have pledged to host similar pickets every Friday until their demands are met. Photo: Nokulunga Majola

Activists across the country have pledged to picket every Friday while wearing orange, demanding that looters of Covid-19 funds be jailed.

“By using the colour orange, we are sending a clear and unequivocal message to the perpetrators of corruption of our intention to see them duly charged, prosecuted and convicted. We want to see them dressed in orange jumpsuits,” said Coral Vinsen, an executive member of the Active Citizens Movement.

On Friday, Vinsen joined about 50 demonstrators scattered near Kenneth Kaunda Road in Durban North. The group donned orange masks and T-shirts with placards reading: “Hoot if you are against Covid-19 corruption” and “Call for action against Covid-19 corruption.”

The Orange Mask Campaign is spearheaded by the Active Citizens Movement, in support of the #StopC19Corruption initiative which is endorsed by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and the Coalition of the Poor.

Vinsen said they want to highlight corruption happening with the Covid-19 tenders. He said the organisation is calling all civil society groups, civic bodies, sporting associations, religious and related organisations, to wear an orange mask on Fridays to show support.

Sagren Padayachee, who joined Friday’s picket, said: “As citizens we have a right to speak our minds and right now we are not happy with corruption in the country. This campaign highlights the devastating impact that corruption involving the Covid-19 funds has on innocent citizens.”

In a statement on 4 September, the Active Citizens Movement said: “We will not allow frontline health workers to be put in danger because someone has stolen the money or inflated prices for personal protective equipment. We will not allow food parcels meant for the poor to be used as bargaining chips to secure local fiefdoms.”

The organisation demanded the full details of all Covid-19 procurement which should include the details of companies given contracts and whether they had any track record of work in that particular field.

“We also want to know who the directors of these companies are. If companies are found guilty of corruption and price inflation, both the entities and their directors should be prevented from doing any future business with the state.

“Law enforcement must act swiftly. We cannot allow years to pass before we start seeing investigations leading to arrests, successful prosecutions and monies being recouped. Action must be taken now to set the tone that there will be consequences for stealing public money.”