South Africa

EDITORIAL

Do the right thing, Khabazela; it’s time to resign

Illustrative image | Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, Tahera Mather (left), Naadhira Mitha (black top, glasses) on 26 March 2019. (Photo: Facebook) | Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | (Photo: Adobe Stock)

In the week, Zweli Mkhize, facing growing accounts of cronyism and corruption in the R150-million (and counting) Digital Vibes contract, said he had not personally benefited from it. That is now shown to be a lie.

Now that Scorpio has shown how money from the Digital Vibes contract has enriched Dr Zweli Mkhize by paying for the maintenance to one of his homes and of how his son has benefited from the contract, it is time for him to resign. 

In the week, Mkhize, facing growing accounts of cronyism and corruption in the R150-million (and counting) Digital Vibes contract, said he had not personally benefited from it. That is now shown to be a lie. On top of the bigger whopper that the minister did not know about the involvement of his former PA Naadhira Mitha and his political adviser and comrade Tahera Mather in the contract, initially granted to communicate on the National Health Insurance plan and later on the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scorpio reports now paint a picture of a crony network remarkably similar to the big daddy Gupta network. The brainchild, ostensibly, of Mather and Mitha, Digital Vibes was run as a front company with a false managing director. The two, in turn, parlayed their relationship with Mkhize to extract hundreds of millions of rands from the Health Department to enrich themselves. As Pieter Louis-Myburgh revealed this week, Digital Vibes even charged millions of rands for arranging public interest announcements of Covid-19 lockdown levels on the SABC. In effect, a private company, which Mkhize and his son are now shown to have benefited from, charged his own department for press conferences at which he was the main character. Public funds that stood between life and death because, in a pandemic, public health information about keeping people safe is as valuable as a vaccine, were squandered and misspent by cronies and associates of the minister. Future reports will reveal how large life was lived by these people when South Africans are dying of hunger and in a pandemic that has cut cruelly.  

South Africa’s Covid fatality rates have mercifully not been as high as other countries, but our compatriots have fallen in unprecedented numbers.  Millions of people have lost their jobs. Civil servants are being asked to take low to no increases. In this context, the largesse and carelessness of the Digital Vibes contract cannot go unnoticed or be kicked into touch.  

It is so corrupt; it’s putrid.  

You don’t have to wait for a Special Investigating Unit to tell you that.  Mkhize must do the right thing and resign. Besides his personal benefit, as Minister of Health, he is the face of the fight against Covid-19. The squandering of so much money and the insouciance of the corruption require an act of accountability, and that act must be his resignation. 

If Mkhize does not resign, then the government is telling us that all its words about being horrified at the R15-billion corruption of personal protective equipment contracts are mere words, loud-sounding nothings. All its promises of dealing with the hyenas who steal from the people are empty. Because a few months later, we sit with a new squander and a new pack of hyenas.  

Until now, Mkhize has done well as the lead of the fight against Covid-19. As a doctor, he has shown a firm grasp of science, and his ministerial advisory committees created a symphony of science and politics that worked well.   

South Africans adopted masking, distancing and hygiene in ways that are admired, and vaccine enthusiasm also tells the story of successful public health policymaking. The daily reports of Covid-19 statistics show that the institutions within his purview like the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and others are excellent.  

Mkhize worked with commendable energy to lead the response to Covid-19 – and in this context, the Digital Vibes scandal is a manifold heartbreak and betrayal. The only right thing to do is to resign. DM

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All Comments 24

  • Don’t we ever learn ? I cannot recall anything more disillusioning since Hansie-gate. Are you quite, quite sure of your details because quite frankly I don’t even want to believe this. Given the fact that corruption/graft is heavily under the spotlight at the moment, Dr Mkhize must either have been taken for a complete ride by his underlings or is just plain daft in terms of his oversight responsibilities as MOH.

    • Neil’s sentiments echo my own… I feel traumatised by these revelations. I was so proud of our Minister of Health last year, in contrast to the ludicrous governments in the UK, the US, Brazil.

      PLEASE RESIGN. AND APOLOGISE. SINCERELY (of course). So that we can retain a shred of … don’t know what, really.

    • Niel, your take on this is the only one that really matters. All other comments are pure rubbish. Only problem, the so-called investigative unit said it will take a few weeks in the press conference by Mkhize. Ramaphosa will wait till then. And this unit is part of the ANC, and NOT INDEPENDENT. There no doubt will be a cover up. ANC style

  • Another Noxious Comrade. Resign….Ha Ha. You cant even blame Zuma/Guptas this time – apart from them showing how its done.

  • He must resign. But if he does, then what? Who will replace him? Who’s the alternative? Is there ANYONE with honesty and integrity left in this disgusting government?

  • I feel badly betrayed and abandoned by this man who I believed was working for the benefit of our country and people. It’s hurtful and bewildering to think that his ethical values might be so very different from what I had expected. Also, as a professional doctor I wonder now how the HPCSA might rate him….

  • Let this be a lesson to young aspiring and talented civil servants and politicians. The collection of small skeletons early on in one’s career have a nasty habit of becoming scandalous when one has been promoted/appointed to high office. By all accounts Mkhize’s propensity to loot began in 1994 when he was appointed MEC for health in KZN. It is alleged that Mkhize arranged Ithala Bank to pay for a road to be tarred to his farm in the Midlands, that he used Ithala Bank to fund Zuma’s legal fees and decorate his residence, used Ithala Bank to buy cattle for his wife and whilst SG he receipted looted funds for the ANC and so on. This lack of moral compass morfed him into Digital Vibes and the inevitable getting caught with both hands in the cookie jar, whilst holding high office as a refreshingly competent Minister of Health, will now be his undoing. Sad. But go he must!

    • Right on! He is not a Robben Island millionaire. Comes from Zim exile and learnt the ropes fast. cANCer are ALL same, same.

  • If Mkize’s doings are all factual – and I think Pieter Louis-Myburgh’s work sofar has been exemplary- his financial greed must by default reflect on the position he held and the work he was tasked to do to keep South Africans alive and healthy. And it does. Elsewhere on the DM pages we have read about one Mr. Vick’s voluntary public communication efforts as the DoH did not meet the grade. Without the voluntary comms effort where would SA have been?
    Once again it is a matter of credibility and trust. The little there was is all gone down the drain. Why would anyone believe a single word uttered by the Minister of Health, even if it was said in good faith. Resignation is not enough be far. An orange overall is the least one could hope for.

  • He should resign, but that does not bring back the R150 million. The whole thing of this charade of COVID is that “Millions of people have lost their jobs” and the economy destroyed. It has been used to loot the tax coffers I am aghast at the comment that “Civil servants are being asked to take low to no increases”; apart from Health workers, who deserve increases, SO WHAT! This last year has been one long paid holiday for the bulk of them. How many Government offices have been closed, barely functional or close at the drop of the C-word? They mostly do not offer the “services they are supposed to provide.

  • Resign? That is so un-African! SA politics is in another reality dimension. The only time a politician resigns is to form their own party.

  • Neither the Covid response nor the NHI should be anywhere near this man, no matter what the investigation comes up with. At best, he is incompetent at regulating health finances, at worst he is an enabler of corruption.

  • Just one correction. You say “South Africa’s Covid fatality rates have mercifully not been as high as other countries”. I think it is by now well established that “Excess Deaths” is the most reliable measure of Covid-related fatalities. And that puts us closer to 150,000 than the 50,000+ of the official figures. What has not been as high as other countries is our ability to record Covid as a cause of death. We have made it difficult and expensive. My personal experience of being refused a post mortem for a young Zimbabwean friend and having to pay a private doctor to get a cause of death so his body could be repatriated is only anecdotal evidence. Alex van den Heever has done the stats – published in this magazine, if I’m not mistaken.

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