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Protect disaster relief funds from shameless crooks

A 15-metre wide hole where a bridge once stood in Ntuzuma in flood-hit KwaZulu-Natal.
CARNAGE A 15-metre wide hole where a bridge once stood in Ntuzuma in flood-hit KwaZulu-Natal.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

It is a  sad day indeed when a news article about the large-scale destruction and human tragedy caused by the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal opens with the words that the government is looking at ways of preventing the looting of the disaster-relief funds. What an indictment on our country.

But with the lingering effects of the shameful state capture and Covid-19 relief funds sagas still  very much with us, this is the right way to go.

According to finance minister Enoch Godongwana, the government is looking at bringing in an independent agency to manage the money earmarked for disaster relief to ensure that it goes where it is meant to go and is not siphoned away by the corrupt.

There is no doubt that a few greedy officials and their co-conspirators  are already eyeing the billions that will be made available to rebuild the damaged roads, bridges and other essential infrastructure, and to help those who have lost everything, including family and friends, in the landslides and floods. 

Sadly, with the state capture saga still top of our minds, along came Covid-19 two years ago and the billions in relief funds meant for personal protective equipment and assistance to those who had lost their jobs or been forced to take salary cuts as a result of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns.

With the shocking revelations that came to light during the Zondo inquiry into state capture, it was no surprise then when it emerged that Covid money had been stolen or misused by a heartless few. 

And now, there are no doubt a few corrupt officials and business people already rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of the billions in flood-relief money that will be made available and who are hatching plans for how they can squirrel away some of it into their personal bank accounts.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has urged the government to ensure the flood-relief funds go where they are intended.

An independent entity with a proven track record to oversee and disburse the money, regular auditing of the funds and constant monitoring of the construction projects are essential to ensure that  the avenues for corruption are blocked. 

We owe it to those grappling with the devastating effects of the flood on their lives to ensure they are not shafted out of badly needed financial assistance by a few shameless crooks.



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