Gauteng’s Covid-19 infrastructure splurge: New report on R1.2bn spend raises more questions than answers
The plot thickens over the Gauteng Provincial Government’s health infrastructure programme, planned for a Covid-19 wave that has now passed, which is starting to look like a big white elephant. The worst part is that the buildings and ICU units that were supposed to be up and running when Covid-19 hit SA’s most densely populated province, are still under construction.
Gauteng’s Covid-19 infrastructure splurge: Where’s Andy, the multimillion-rand floor man, and why was he paid so much?
Either the latest Gauteng Expenditure Disclosure report got its maths wrong by nearly R200m, or the Department of Infrastructure Development paid almost R190m over its budget for wooden floors for tents put up at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to manage the Covid-19 emergency.
Although there’s occasionally still a chill in the breeze, it’s clear now that spring is in the air. Winter is no longer coming, neither is Covid-19. For many people the sense of dread is departing, giving way to a return to normality: time for friends, family, sport, unhindered love, the prospect of summer holidays.
The Gauteng government has spent hundreds of millions of rands on ‘barrack-style field hospitals’ in anticipation of a Covid-19 surge which has already passed, with most of these nowhere near close to completion. Doctors say these structures were also not fit for purpose and warned billions more could be wasted. This suggests the construction of 1,400 additional ICU beds, a signature project of the provincial health department may turn out to be the biggest misspending of emergency health funds that has yet bedevilled the pandemic response.
In the last few months we have seen the deaths of ordinary people who helped define our heritage by becoming extraordinary: Andrew Mlangeni, Achmat Dangor and George Bizos. These were people whose lives contained South Africa’s raging currents, epitomised its human beauty and witnessed its cruelty and brutality.
“Economists have only ruined the world – the point is to improve it”. (With a nod to Karl Marx) Today is the United Nations International Day of Democracy. At a time when democracy is under attack in so many parts of the world, the day could not be more important. But rather than activists satisfying ourselves with glib platitudes, we should ask deeper questions about what’s going wrong. One obvious area we should look at is the disconnect between democracy and economy.
The media has been under attack for a long time. Sadly though, this is not only from dictators, corrupt criminal networks and those who benefit from obscuring the truth about what is happening in society. This we expect. We can handle our enemies. What is equally threatening now is the pressure from commercial and economic forces, and the shift to digital media, which has reduced advertising revenues that for a century held up print media, and the daily newspaper in particular.
Street Talk is a groundbreaking television series aired weekly on community television. From grassroots to the establishment, our engaging programmes expose the lived realities and uncensored views of ordinary South Africans.
On 2 September 2019, we published the first edition of Maverick Citizen, a new section of the Daily Maverick that would focus on news and views about activism, human rights and social justice. We promised a springtime for social justice journalism.
That was a year ago.