AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
SOUTH Africa’s Dr Zweli Mkhize has become the third health mininster in Africa to get in trouble after being implicated in corruption.
Mkhize’s suspension yesterday by President Cyril Ramaphosa comes a few months after his counterparts in Zimbabwe and Zambia lost their jobs after being implicated in corruption related to services offered in the battle against COVID-19.
Zimbabwean Obaddiah Moyo was fired as health minister and replaced by Deputy President Constantino Chiwenga after allegations of corruption were levelled against him. Moyo was implicated in a $60-million dollar COVID-19 supply deal.
In Zambia then Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya was arrested in June 2020 on suspicion of corruption. Chilufya, 47, was charged with four counts of possession of property suspected of being proceeds of crime, an Anti-Corruption Commission.
Mkhize has not been charged and asked to be placed on special leave. His future depends on the outcomes of an investigation by the Special Invesigations Unit, which has said that their probe is being finalised and a report would be submitted to Ramaphosa soon.
Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, placed Mkhize, who is implicated in a R150-million scandal, on special leave.
Ramaphosa said the special leave would enable the Minister to attend to allegations and investigations concerning contracts between the Department of Health and a service provider, Digital Vibes.
“The Special Investigating Unit is investigating this matter and the President awaits a report on the outcome of this probe. Minister of Tourism Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will serve as Acting Minister of Health until further notice,” the Presidency said in a statement.
Ramaphosa’s decision came hours after Mkhize disclosed that he had asked the president for special leave to deal with the matter.
Mkhize apologised to South Africans and said he fully acknowledged and took accountability for the public outrage on the R150-million irregular tender awarded to Digital Vibes. He said he was co-operating fully with the Special Investigations Unit, whose probe into the matter is expected to be finalised soon.
He acknowledged that the scandal has dented the good work done by the government in the fight against Covid-19.
Earlier, Mkhize denied that the scandal had anything to do with ANC politics. Weekend reports alleged that Mkhize had met with some leading ANC officials where he linked the investigations to a tender awarded to a company owned by his former aides, to his plan to challenge Cyril Ramaphosa for the ANC presidency.
The Health Minister also said he does not blame Ramaphosa for the probe.
He said: “The Minister fully acknowledges that the President had signed a proclamation to look into any allegations of graft relating to PPE. In any event, even before the SIU took over the investigation, the Department of Health had initiated its own investigation. It is therefore disingenuous to allege that this is linked to any political contestation. At no point has the Minister blamed the President for this investigation.”
Mkhize’s statement came a few days after he volunteered to appear before the ANC’s Integrity Commission (IC) to answer questions about his role in a matter that has shaken the government.
Mkhize has written to the IC and declared his intention to subject himself to its process. The IC is an ANC structure installed to investigate the conduct of members who may harm the party’s integrity through unethical behaviour, including corruption and theft.
An investigation commissioned by the Health Department found that the contract, awarded to Digital Vibes, a company owned by Mkhize’s former aides, was irregular.
Ramaphosa has pledged to act on the matter, once he has received the SIU’s report.
George Mashamba, the chairperson of the IC, has told the SABC that Mkhize will be given a date to appear before the commission. He said Mkhize has requested an opportunity to explain his role in the allegations.
“We received the letter at the meeting and we said we will call him. We will write a letter to him to tell him when to come and will arrange the date. We did not decide on the meeting. Contents will come out when we discuss with him. I understand this is a serious matter, but I won’t pre-empt the deliberations with the IC,” he said.
The latest development came after fresh revelations implicating Mkhize in the R150-million scandal. According to The Daily Maverick and Scorpio, Digital Vibes, the company that won the R150-million COVID-19 communication tender, bought a R150 000 Toyota Land Cruiser for Mkhize’s son, Dedani.
This latest revelation comes soon after it was revealed that Digital Vibes paid for work done at Mkhize’s Johannesburg home and that the company paid Dedani R300 000. Mkhize, who has spearheaded SA’s war against COVID-19, has said he was not directly implicated in the scandal which revealed that Digital Vibes, a communications company at the centre of a R150-million tender, is owned by Mkhize’s long time associates Tahera Mather and Naadira Mitha.