Johannesburg – Gauteng Premier David Makhura said the province was working hard to fight Covid-19, yet that was overshadowed by the reported corruption in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Speaking at the State of the Province Address on Tuesday, he said Gauteng’s full story of progress in its fight against Covid-19 was not being told as the focus was on irregularities committed.
One of their achievements, Makhura said, was expanding the capacity of the public health system with more beds and staff. Yet, this was overshadowed by corruption allegations, he said.
“The deadly pandemic was seen as a chance to loot public funds. Corruption allegations and irregularities are currently being probed by the Auditor General as well as the Special Investigative Unit and all this undermines our response to Covid-19.”
The premier said they would ensure those found guilty faced consequences and would be made examples of. He said they would have to pay back the money they got through corrupt means and be prosecuted and imprisoned.
According to Makhura, the pandemic might be far from over as the third wave was still on its way, expected in winter. However, there was a glimmer of hope as the country has reached the vaccination phase, he said.
By Monday night, Makhura said, over 5 000 healthcare workers in Gauteng had been vaccinated.
“The vaccine is the only weapon against any pandemic and vaccination must be rolled out with urgency to many people to save lives. We intend to vaccinate 10.4 million people in Gauteng and call on to people to be ready to be vaccinated in large numbers. We must save lives and need to dispel myths and conspiracy theories around it because vaccines work.”
He said the second phase of the vaccination, expected to target 7.3 million people, would include teachers, police officers, the elderly and those with comorbidities.
The third phase, targeting 2.7 millon people, would be for everyone.
With regards to the economy, Makhura said the war against Covid-19 has been costly with over half a million people losing their jobs. He said the province planned to reignite Gauteng’s economy so that it could take the lead in the recovery and reconstruction of the country as well as the industrialisation of Africa.
One way of doing that, the premier said, was for Gauteng to become the hub for cannabis in the country.
“We want to be the cannabis hub, not to smoke it, but to process it for health purposes and to also improve the quality of life.”