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Was the fight against corruption in 2020 genuine or was it for show?

For the first time since the democratic dispensation, law enforcement entities appeared ever more committed to taking action, with the Hawks swooping in on many suspects including politicians in 2020.

FILE: Hawks arrest one of seven on 30 September 2020 in connection with the R255 million Free State asbestos project. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Corruption has been the bane of the South African societal fabric for years now, with little outcomes from investigations despite many high-profile politicians and business people being implicated in crimes which rob the public of much-needed resources.

However, for the first time since the democratic dispensation, law enforcement entities appeared ever more committed to taking action, with the Hawks swooping in on many suspects including politicians in 2020.

But many are asking if this is real or just for show.

The anti-corruption fight has characterised the President Cyril Ramaphosa-led sixth administration.

This is mainly because his campaign to occupy the top office in the country two years ago was based on this very fact - a promise to deal head-on with corruption.

There may not be any high-profile corruption accused individuals in orange overalls as yet, but indications and the numbers tell the story of a government well on its way to ensure this is realised.

Corruption is not just a travesty for the country’s economy as it discourages investor confidence, but literally takes food out of the mouths of the poorest and vulnerable South Africans.

This was witnessed in the Free State asbestos tender corruption, over which African National Congress Secretary-General Ace Magashule is facing criminal charges.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic provided criminals yet another pay day.

Through the procurement of personal protective equipment, they cheated the system - jeopardising the lives of health care workers who are on the frontlines of the virus.

This was most notable in the Gauteng province.

The Special Investigation Unit, tasked with investigating serious malpractice, malfeasance and maladministration in relation to the administration of state institutions also got into gear.

With a caseload of 200 closed investigations in the 2019/2020 financial year, these have more than quadrupled in the 2020 to 2021 financial year which ends in March.

Naturally, this was due to the massive rise in numbers influenced by virus-related corruption.

Between March and December, the SIU clocked 2,556 PPE contracts that are being investigated which amounts to R13.3 billion.

Meanwhile, 11 companies and individuals were referred to the Special Tribunal for Civil Proceedings.

The Hawks have also been on overdrive, arresting junior, midlevel and senior public servants along with prominent politicians and business people.

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