President Cyril Ramaphosa looks on during a visit to Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg on April 24 2020. Ramaphosa was visiting sites identified as Covid-19 facilities in Gauteng. Picture: GCIS/KOPANO TLAPE
President Cyril Ramaphosa looks on during a visit to Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg on April 24 2020. Ramaphosa was visiting sites identified as Covid-19 facilities in Gauteng. Picture: GCIS/KOPANO TLAPE

President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed on Friday to closely monitor how the R500bn social and economic support package for SA will be used, stressing that systems will be put in place to ensure the funds are not misappropriated.

The package, which is aimed at keeping the embattled SA economy going during the pandemic, included a special R20bn Covid-19 health budget, wide-ranging support for the most vulnerable through R50bn in expanded social grants, the distribution of food parcels and vouchers, and a R200bn loan guarantee scheme for firms that need additional resources to bridge them through the crisis.

Additional funding of R20bn will be made available to municipalities for the provision of emergency water supply, increased sanitisation of public transport and facilities, and providing food and shelter for the homeless.

Ramaphosa said his administration had responded positively to a request for financial assistance by municipalities that could not collect rates and taxes during the lockdown period.

“We are going to keep a hawk’s eye on how the money is going to be spent. I spoke to the auditor-general [Kimi Makwethu on Thursday]. I said, ‘auditor-general we need to put in place systems, on a proactive basis, to prevent the abuse of resources that we are putting in place, so that money doesn’t end up in people’s pockets,’” Ramaphosa said.

“Like, for instance, with food parcels, we abhor the fact that there have been stories and allegations that some of these have ended up in people’s pockets, that councillors have been abusing that. We want to stamp that out, from the onset, we are taking proactive steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen.”

There have been reports of councillors who looted the food parcels meant for the most vulnerable in society,  and in some cases distributed them only to people affiliated to a particular political party.

Ramaphosa said he did not want to hear of a request to establish a Covid-19 commission after the pandemic is over.

He was speaking to journalists after his visit to Covid-19 facilities in Gauteng, which included a walkabout at an isolation and quarantine facility in Nasrec and visits to the Johannesburg Central Food Bank in Booysens and the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Parktown.

There are a total of 1,252 reported cases of coronavirus in Gauteng and eight deaths. The Western Cape overtook Gauteng as the epicentre of SA’s Covid-19 outbreak on Thursday.

Ramaphosa was accompanied by Gauteng premier David Makhura and health MEC Bandile Masuku during his visits to the facilities on Friday.

Makhura said the province has 8,000 beds in the public and private healthcare sector for Covid-19 patients. They want to increase the number to 10,000 beds.

“We have sufficient stock of personal protective equipment at the moment, for our front-line workers such as public healthcare workers, security and law-enforcement agencies,” said Makhura.

“So far in this stage, we have done our best, but we don’t want to be complacent. Every day we are building additional capacity in Gauteng because it has been the epicentre [of the coronavirus outbreak in SA]. We are far from the peak, actually.”

Ramaphosa said he was “hugely impressed” with the level of preparedness in the province.

“The country needs to get very well prepared because we are going to be reaching a peak in August/September, where we will need lots of hospital beds. What I saw today [Friday] is most impressive because we are ramping up to almost 10,000 beds here in Gauteng,” the president said.

He described the healthcare workers as the “real footsoldiers” waging war against the invisible enemy.

“The country can’t thank them enough. I will continue to thank them and recognise them for the excellent work that they are doing, putting themselves right in the epicentre of danger, is precisely what we are grateful for. The country needs to thank them.”

Ramaphosa said he will visit other provinces as well to check their level of preparedness against dealing with the pandemic.

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