Ramaphosa Loses Spokeswoman to Virus Fraud Crackdown

Four days after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a crackdown on fraud related to the country’s coronavirus response, his spokeswoman took a leave of absence after allegations were leveled against her husband.

Newspaper reports tied the husband of Khusela Diko to irregularities regarding the purchase of personal protective equipment by Gauteng Province’s Department of Health.

Diko is taking leave from all official roles in the government “pending investigations on recent allegations involving her and her husband in tender irregularities,” the presidency said in an emailed statement.

In March, a company owned by Diko’s husband, Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, won contracts for the supply of equipment worth 125 million rand ($7.6 million), news site Independent Online reported July 19, citing documents it said it had seen. Diko’s husband is king of the amaBhaca, a South African ethnic group.

Sole director

Diko’s husband is the sole director of Royal Bhaca Project, the company tied to the contracts, according to a search of company records by Bloomberg. Diko didn’t reply to a text message sent to her mobile phone.

Ramaphosa last week in a speech spoke at length about the need to crack down on corruption linked to the government’s coronavirus response, and has ordered a probe into the misuse of public funds. Nine government agencies, including the National Prosecuting Authority, police and national tax agency, are investigating allegations of wrongdoing.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Sunday said on Twitter that people connected to fraud related to equipment procurement would be dealt with “decisively.”

Tyrone Seale will act as Ramaphosa’s spokesman in Diko’s absence, the presidency said.

South Africa has the largest number of confirmed infections in Africa, with 452,529 cases and 7,067 deaths as of Sunday.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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