UNDER normal circumstances, a tale of 80 ambulances belonging to the department of health in Limpopo disappearing without trace would elicit a cynical chuckle.
Unfortunately, this is not a joke and the incident actually happened, costing the South African taxpayer R48 million.
That this large-scale theft has deprived Limpopo's poverty-stricken populace of the means to access hospitals in the case of emergency is a sick joke.
It is shameful that these shenanigans happened right under the noses of government officials who want the public to have confidence in them.
A subject of a report that appeared in this newspaper on Tuesday, the ambulances disappeared between 2007 and three months ago, when those suspected of being responsible were suspended.
Why the theft of the first few ambulances in 2007 did not raise the alarm of the authorities in the department at the time boggles the mind.
Needless to say, this raises questions about administrative controls at the provincial health department.
How can someone commit a series of thefts of vehicles that provide an essential service without those in charge being aware?
If indeed that is the case then the people of Limpopo cannot rely on their government to ensure that they enjoy one of their basic constitutional right of access to healthcare.
The Limpopo department of health can only redeem itself by ensuring that those responsible face the full might of the law.