Church leaders confront South African government on COVID-19 corruption

Corruption bedeviling South Africa recently has entered the fight against the novel-coronavirus, and church leaders are furious about it.

(Photo: Albin Hillert / WCC)Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has been outspoken from the pulpit. Makgoba, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, preaches during a July 19 interfaith prayer service, held at the Roman Catholic Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban, South Africa, during the 2016 International AIDS Conference.

The Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba called on his President Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure that “hypocrites” and “thieves” in the ruling African National Congress return what they have stolen from the public and be sent to jail.

“In the Book of Kings, in the Old Testament, God tells Elijah to leave the cave to which he has retreated, and to engage with the world,” said Makgoba on Aug. 26.

“Similarly, today, God compels us as the Church to come out of our sanctuaries and to speak out about the conditions that afflict our people. If we don’t, then as Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel, the very stones will cry out.

“Today, Mr. President, our hearts, our souls, our bodies and our minds are consumed with the national crisis that faces South Africa,” said makgoa.

” The public’s money, life-saving money that is meant to provide oxygen to the breathless poor in the midst of a pandemic, has been misappropriated, stolen in brazen defiance of the commandment in the Book of Exodus which enjoins each of us: Thou shalt not steal.”

Last week World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said that corupt practices around medical safety gear for Covid19 health workers is tantamount to “murder”.

“Any type of corruption is unacceptable,” Tedros said at global webinar by the WHO.

“However, corruption related to PPE (personal protective equipment)… for me it’s actually murder. Because if health workers work without PPE, we’re risking their lives. And that also risks the lives of the people they serve.


“So it’s criminal and it’s murder and it has to stop.”

Brazil has also reported PPE corruption.

In South Africa reports that local government officials were hoarding and selling food donations meant for families without income during lockdown stimulated national debate.

Meanwhile in Geneva, Tedros said that corruption which deprives health workers of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) threatened not only their lives but also the lives of their patients suffering from the novel coronavirus.

In South Africa, 115 COVID-19 new deaths on Aug. 28 brought the country’s death toll to 13,743, with 620 132 confirmed cases and 533,935 recoveries, News 24 reported.

Makgoba said, “Corrupt big-wigs who have joined your party, not to serve the common good but to enrich themselves, act with impunity – their attitudes are debilitating, life-drenching.

“At this time in the history of our country, we must draw a line in the sand. Thus, says the Lord, on whom our hope is founded, the hypocrites and the thieves must return the stolen treasures of the poor, and they must be dispatched to jail, where they must wear orange jumpsuits.”

The day before Makgoba’s statement a delegation led by the South African Council of Churches met with officials from the African National Congress to call for societal action against COVID-19 corruption, the World Council of Churches reported.


The delegation urged all who live in South Africa to reject corruption and unethical behavior.

As well as the South African Council of Churches, the delegation included the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Nelson Mandela Foundation, Foundation for Human Rights and Council for the Advancement of South African Constitution.

“There comes a time when the moral depravity of some in positions of authority, and in the private sector, undermine the very notion of nationhood and the underlying value of public service,” said the statement.

“We are compelled to assert: This is not how we shall be known as a nation.”

The group called for transparency, accountability and ethical governance.

“The governing party leadership appears compromised within itself,” the church leaders said.

Such a breakdown at this level of “prepares the ground for the moral decay of the rest of society, resulting in the rule of law being undermined.”

They called on the ANC, which has ruled since 1994, and all political parties in South Africa to enter into a covenant based on a public commitment to accountability, responsiveness and openness.

Many church leaders had supported the ANC when it led the struggle against apartheid, but now they said, “the fight against corruption while elevating a leader who is facing corruption charges to a provincial legislature.”

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