Ramaphosa’s Ousted Spokeswoman Regrets Coronavirus Contract

Khusela Diko, who earlier this week took a leave of absence as spokeswoman for South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, said she regrets the “error of judgment” that led to her husband winning a contract to supply the government with personal protective equipment.

Diko stepped down from her position after newspaper reports tied her husband’s company, Royal Bhaca Projects, to a 125 million rand ($7.6 million) contract to supply the health department of Gauteng province with the equipment. The company was registered in January last year.

Days earlier, Ramaphosa had announced a probe into possible corruption around the procurement of medical equipment, without saying which companies were under investigation. The deal with Royal Bhaca Projects has been canceled.

“Despite the absence of any illegality and confirmation that no public funds were ever paid to Royal Bhaca Projects – details of which will be further ventilated by the investigations – the matter continues to draw outrage from across society,” Diko said in a statement Wednesday. “We have found ourselves at the center of a media and public storm.”

Incidents of Graft

The involvement of his spokeswoman in the scandal is an embarrassment to Ramaphosa, who has vowed to end the widespread corruption that marked the nine-year rule of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

The incident is among several reports of graft linked to the country’s coronavirus response that have surfaced in recent weeks and show that there’s no political will to deal with corruption, Angelique Coetzee, chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, said in a statement Thursday.

“Improprieties in medical tenders not only damage the country’s economy and reputation, but its ability to care for the sick,” Coetzee said. “When medical equipment such as personal protective equipment is the focus of an alleged wrongdoing we expect immediate and urgent action. Unless it is done, and seen to be done, irregularities will continue, and continue to burden an already over-stretched health sector.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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