Given the Free State’s record of abuse of supply chain procedures, there is a legitimate concern that relaxing such processes during the lockdown in order to procure emergency supplies will expand the already open doors of corruption and cronyism in this “Gangster State”.
The police in Ladybrand have allegedly already been given a list of Spaza Shops that may remain open by the Mayor of Setsoto, Cllr Mamsie Tsoene.
I have personally indicated to the Premier that we will support any positive initiatives and that we need to work together to fight the coronavirus, but this does not imply that we have capitulated our role as a constructive opposition with a mandate to ensure accountability of, and oversight over, the Free State Provincial Government, especially during this crisis.
Premier Sisi Ntombela together with the Director General of the Free State Kopung Ralikontsoane formed a Premier’s Provincial Command Committee comprising all MEC’s, all Executive Mayors of District Municipalities and one representative from each political party to jointly tackle the coronavirus threat, which was welcomed by the DA.
This committee met twice before the lockdown and attempted an online meeting later last week, which was unsuccessful. A WhatsApp group was created to escalate problems and get reports and feedback. Although this was a positive initiative, it now appears as if certain information is not shared with all parties.
The DA Provincial Health Spokesperson Mariette Pittaway enquired during the first meeting where members of this Command Committee could report issues such as families that are without food and other social development problems in the community.
It was then said that the Free State Province has a 24-hour hotline to handle these types of situations. Since Saturday morning this 24-hour hotline has not been working.
Pittaway requested an alternate number on the group and to date no number has been forthcoming.
When ANC MPL Thabo Meeko made similar enquiries he was told by the Premier to call her personally. This creates the impression that the Premier has special resources available for the ANC. It is clear that the goodwill of opposition parties is being abused by the ANC to silence us.
Other concerns raised by the DA include, among others:
- Shortage of life-sustaining medication at clinics;
- The lack of water in many towns and communities for individual households to carry out personal hygiene, and the abuse of funds meant for water provisioning in Maluti-a-Phofung Municipality;
- The poor planning regarding additional medical equipment and facilities to add to the mere 7136 private and public hospital beds, 300 critical care beds and the limited amount of ventilators in the province;
- The lack of testing and poor implementation of lockdown regulations have placed the approximately 420 000 people with HIV/Aids and 366 000 people above 65 years of age in the province at huge risk.
While issues relating to the curtailing and management of the coronavirus in the Free State are urgent, the DA will not tolerate the abuse of these conditions to further promote cronyism and corruption. The DA will therefore submit a motion in the Free State legislature for a special audit of all coronavirus related procurement by the provincial government and municipalities.