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Ramaphosa: SA's R500bn stimulus package funds haven’t been stolen

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday replied to oral questions in the National Assembly on government’s fight against gender-based violence and femicide, and the combating of corruption in the public and private sectors.

President Cyril Ramaphosa interacting with communities across the nation through a virtual Presidential Imbizo on coronavirus. Picture: @PresidencyZA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday said claims that the country's R500 billion COVID-19 stimulus package was stolen were “far from the truth”.

Answering oral questions in the National Assembly during a hybrid plenary session, the president estimated that the amount spent by government on personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus pandemic was about R11 billion.

“What has been actually spent on personal protective equipment as per the Treasury records is about R11 billion. And much of that money has gone into buying PPEs,” Ramaphosa said. “As the cases [of corruption] get reported firstly to me on malfeasance, we will get to know precisely the actual amount of this malfeasance… It is not R500 billion, I needed to clarify that,” he added.

Ramaphosa was asked a question about allegations of PPE tender corruption involving his spokesperson Khusela Diko by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema.

Diko, Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and his wife - a City of Johannesburg official - have been implicated in a multimillion-rand PPE tender debacle involving Diko’s husband AmaBhaca chief Madzikane ll Thandisizwe Diko.

The president refused to elaborate on the matter, saying that the allegations were being investigated by law enforcement agencies.

“The spokesperson has stepped aside, and we are looking into that matter. We will be dealing with this matter once we have gone into it,” Ramaphosa said.

On whether he would make public bank statements related to his 2017 African National Congress (ANC) presidential campaign, Ramaphosa said the matter was before the courts.

“The issue of the CR17 funding donor list that matter is in court and we must allow that court process to proceed,” he said.

In August 2019, the bank statements relating to donations made to Ramaphosa’s campaign were sealed from public access by the Pretoria High Court after a request from him.

'SOUTH AFRICA COMES FIRST'

Ramaphosa also responded to a supplementary question from Freedom Front Plus MP, Pieter Groenewald, about whether he served the interests of South Africans given the allegations of corruption related to the procurement of goods and services for the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“South Africa comes first because that is the entity that we all pay our allegiance to. When I was sworn in as president, I was sworn in to advance the interests of the people of South Africa. And that is what I am committed to doing,” he said. “I was not sworn in to advance the interests of a party. I was sworn in to advance the interests of the people of South Africa."

ZANDILE GUMEDE’S APPOINTMENT AS MPL

Ramaphosa also dodged a question on whether he agreed with the appointment of former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede by the ANC to the KwaZulu-Natal legislature.

Ramaphosa, responding to a question from the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) interim leader John Steenhuisen, said that the matter was being discussed within the structures of the ANC in a democratic manner.

The president also acknowledged that Gumede’s appointment as a Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) had “caused disquiet”.

Ramaphosa said that government had strengthened its resolve to fight corruption given the recent allegations of corruption.

He said that it was not his duty to investigate, arrest, and prosecute people for corruption but rather to strengthen law enforcement institutions.

Ramaphosa said that the allegations of corruption had caused a lot of outrage among South Africans. He said that the executive was also equally outraged by the allegations reported in the media.

“It has also caused outrage among you as Members of Parliament. It is disgraceful that at this time of national crisis, there are companies and individuals who seek to criminally benefit from our efforts to protect people’s health and to save lives,” Ramaphosa said.

STERILISATION OF HIV-POSITIVE WOMEN

Ramaphosa earlier condemned the sterilisation in public hospitals of HIV-positive women without their informed consent, saying that it was a violation of their basic human rights as set out in the Constitution.

“Anyone who participates in that has to be accountable and so that process is truly open to anyone to take up the matter. And I actually find it offensive that people could be coerced and forced to sterilise because that’s a violation of human rights,” Ramaphosa said.

R1.6 BILLION SET ASIDE TO FIGHT GBV, FEMICIDE

The president said that government had set aside R1.6 billion to fight the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide in the country.

Ramaphosa said that the numerous organisations that government had consulted with prior to the implementation of the National Strategic Plan to fight GBV asked that resources be made available to tackle the social problem in the country.

The implementation of the plan by Cabinet began on 1 May 2020. The strategic plan provides for a governance structure in the form of a multi-sectoral GBV and femicide council to lead the implementation of the plan.

Ramaphosa said that the civil society organisations had insisted that the funds should be properly allocated by the council with oversight in place.

EFF INTERRUPTIONS

Earlier, Ramaphosa's reply to oral questions in the National Assembly was disrupted by members of the EFF.

This after EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi objected to the president continuing his address without Malema and his deputy president Floyd Shivambu not being present in the virtual session.

Malema was later able to take part in the session.

Earlier, DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone disagreed with Mkhaliphi and pleaded with Speaker Thandi Modise to continue with the session because DA members had logged in to the meeting prior to the session.

Modise said that she would not rule on the matter as Parliament’s IT team was looking at the challenges with accessing the meeting.

WATCH: Ramaphosa replies to questions in National Assembly

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