South Africa places Health Minister on forced leave over allege corruption in covid contracts
London, June 9, 2021 (AltAfrica)-Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has been placed on special leave by President Cyril Ramaphosa and will present himself to the ANC’s Integrity Commission in relation to the R150-million Digital Vibes contract.
Mkhize told reporters in the Northern Cape, where he was inspecting vaccination sites, that he had requested special leave.
“This period of special leave will enable the minister to attend to allegations and investigations concerning contracts between the Department of Health and a service provider, Digital Vibes,” according to a statement released by office of president Ramaphosa.
PRESIDENT PLACES MINISTER OF HEALTH ON SPECIAL LEAVE— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) June 8, 2021
President @CyrilRamaphosa has today, Tuesday, 08 June 2021 placed Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize on special leave.
Ramaphosa is attending a G7 Summit in the UK from 11 to 13 June where the long tale of a health minister caught in a brazen story of Covid-19 corruption could haunt his image as a reformer.
South Africa is the only African leader and one of four additional countries invited to the big power bloc summit where issues including vaccine equity, funding for the Covid-19 recovery and taxation are on the agenda.
In addition, the ANC welcomed Mkhize’s decision to present himself to the Integrity Commission, the party’s internal ethics investigator headed by veteran George Mashamba.
He is yet to do so.
The commission has the power to investigate whether or not he should step aside in line with the ANC’s rules. The precedent set by the party is for officials and leaders to only step aside from their roles once they are charged.
Until now, Ramaphosa has said that he would wait for a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into the Digital Vibes contract before he makes a decision on Mkhize’s future.
Earlier on June 8, Mkhize denied reports that he had said he is being targeted ahead of a run at the ANC presidency when the party holds its next elective conference in 2022.
The Digital Vibes contract has tainted both Ramaphosa and Mkhize’s reputations as pandemic stewards. Mkhize has used an agile management of the pandemic to build a political base and reputation for himself.
His run at being ANC president in 2017 flopped and he has assiduously used his time as health minister to rebuild his reputation which was hurt during his time as treasurer-general to former president Jacob Zuma.
At the weekend, the Sunday World reported that Mkhize was trying to avoid culpability by pinning the blame for the Digital Vibes contract on his DG, Anban Pillay, and the Department of Health’s communications chief, Popo Maja. He has issued cautionary letters of intention to suspend against the two bureaucrats, but had to withdraw them pending the finalisation of the SIU report.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will be acting health minister, the Presidency announced. DM