Cosatu. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Cosatu. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Union federation Cosatu is demanding that President Cyril Ramaphosa takes action against his ANC colleagues who are looting Covid-19 funds, saying writing letters on the matter is not enough to remove the scourge.

Ramaphosa has used his weekly newsletter to speak out against corruption, likening those accused of graft to “a pack of hyenas circling wounded prey”.

On Sunday, he took the unprecedented step of writing a letter to ANC members in which he said the ANC is “Accused No 1" in SA’s corruption problem.

“The ANC may not stand alone in the dock, but it does stand as Accused No 1. This is the stark reality that we must now confront,” the ANC leader said in the hard-hitting letter.

There is growing anger over corruption in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) by politically connected people.

Possible tender irregularities in the procurement of PPE in Gauteng have already led to the president’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, and provincial health MEC Bandile Masuku taking a leave of absence pending the outcome of Special Investigating Unit investigations.

Leaders of unions affiliated to Cosatu, which held its central executive committee meeting on Monday and Tuesday, said they wanted action to be taken against the perpetrators.

“We want nothing of the statements and letters he has been writing on corruption, we want to see presidential action being taken,” said a leader, who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Cosatu will hold a media briefing on Wednesday to announce the outcome of the meeting.

“The meeting was very robust. We really came out very strong on issues of corruption. Other leaders were even toying with the idea of marching to the Zondo commission to express our frustrations that it is just a talk-shop as it has not produced any results.”

The commission, chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, has been hearing evidence relating to state capture.

Business Day understands that other union leaders went as far as proposing that Cosatu break away from the governing tripartite alliance with the ANC and the SACP.

“We were saying Cosatu is caught up on this corruption web because we are part of the alliance with the ANC. People see us as a bunch of corrupt cronies, which is not the case,” said a unionist.

Another challenge was the lack of a platform for alliance partners to vent their frustrations as they were not meeting due to the lockdown. “So we are forced to keep up this facade of unity.”

Cosatu last held a central executive committee meeting in February before the national lockdown came into effect in March.

“A lot has happened since then, there is a lot of frustration with the government and anxiety over the economic situation where workers are facing not just retrenchments, but are losing their houses, cars and other assets,” said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

The lockdown has had a huge impact on the economy, which is expected to suffer a contraction of 7% or more for 2020 as well as huge job losses.

Pamla said they were angry at the government for reneging on wage agreements and taking workers for granted. In February, the government announced plans to cut the public sector wage bill by more than R160bn over the next three years, a decision described by unions as a “declaration of war”.

The subsequent resolution by the government to not implement a standing wage agreement for public servants in April is now subject to both court and arbitration proceedings.

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