NATIONAL NEWS - The Active Citizens Movement, Cosatu, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Corruption Watch and 60 other civil society organisations are calling on the public to demonstrate their anger against Covid-19 corruption by donning an orange mask every Friday.
In a statement they say the colour is symbolic of the orange overalls which Covid-19 looters should be wearing in prison.
The #OrangeMaskFridays campaign forms part of a broad societal effort to stop C19 corruption. The campaign is being driven by civil society organisations in response to widespread reports of looting of funds meant to address the impact of the Coronavirus.
It has been initiated by the Active Citizens Movement, and has enjoyed rolling success over three successive Fridays, with organisations and activists joining in and demonstrating by wearing orange masks and displaying placards with anti-corruption messages.
“We urge organisations across all sectors, communities and individuals to source or sew their own orange masks and make a statement by wearing them every Friday leading up to 9 December, marked as International Anti-Corruption Day.
“By wearing orange masks, we will effectively be telling the government and the private sector that we value our democracy and Constitution, and we refuse to sit by idly watching as greedy business ‘covidpreneurs’, politicians and public servants steal money that is meant to save lives during the pandemic.
“We will not allow frontline health workers to be put in danger because someone has stolen the money or inflated prices for personal protective equipment (PPEs). We will not allow food parcels meant for the poor to be used as bargaining chips to secure local fiefdoms.”
The #OrangeMaskFridays campaign takes inspiration from a recent moral call by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and several other organisations, urging government to ensure procurement transparency, and accountability for Covid-19 looters.
It also draws from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s call for 2020 to be the 'Year of the Orange Overalls'. The Archbishop shared these views last year demanding greater accountability for state capture.
“Our call puts power back in the hands of the public. It is us, the ordinary public, who has entrusted government to look after our money and we insist that it be used wisely and prudently to benefit society.
“We demand the full details of all Covid-19 procurement, presented in a way that provides the unit cost of items and services rendered. It should include the details of companies that were given contracts, and whether they had any track record of work in that particular field. We also want to know who the directors of these companies are. If companies are found guilty of corruption and price inflation, both the entities and their directors should be prevented from doing any future business with the state.”
The civil society organisations ask that law enforcement act swiftly. “We cannot allow years to pass by before we start seeing investigations leading to arrests, successful prosecutions and monies being recouped. Action must be taken now to set the tone that there will be consequences for stealing public money.
“At the same time, we call on civil servants and workers in the private sector to make whistleblowing an act of national duty. As the vanguards against corruption, civil servants should refuse to sign off any dodgy contracts. Workers in the private sector should refuse to handle corrupt transactions.
They say institutional problems exist which enable corruption, including nepotism and honest public servants and private sector workers coming under political or other forms of pressure. “Over the long term, government must engage with civil society to further develop plans to insulate the public administration from inappropriate political or private sector interference.
“This month, we will celebrate our rich, diverse and common heritage on September 24. What we will not celebrate, is a growing culture of corruption that is becoming endemic within the public and private sector. For the vast majority of people in this country, who are not corrupt, we will wear our orange masks as a rejection of corruption, and we will highlight how this scourge undermines the development of our country.
“During ‘Heritage Weekend’, we urge the public to initiate action within the necessary safety and health standards at their workplaces, religious institutes, neighbourhoods and organisations.
People can tweet pictures of themselves in their orange masks using the hashtag #OrangeMaskFridays, participate in 'yard-pickets' at their homes, organise car-cades, tie orange ribbons on streetpoles, fly orange banners from buildings, host online seminars or sermons on the topic, or use any creative means within the necessary Covid-19 regulations to make their voices heard.
* Follow #OrangeMaskFridays on Twitter. Like the Facebook page set up to highlight various activities as the campaign unfolds. Organisations can continue endorsing this statement by emailing email@example.com.
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