South Africa

Age of Accountability

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize goes on special leave in wake of Digital Vibes revelations

Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize. (Photo by Gallo Images/Die Burger/Lulama Zenzile)

Zweli Mkhize has been put on special leave by President Ramaphosa and will present himself to the ANC's Integrity Commission. Was he pushed to take leave or did he ask?

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,” said a statement released by Ramaphosa.

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 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 deputy 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

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All Comments 9

  • The African National Corruption continues. Pity most voters will not be aware of the ANC’s culpability, or will ignore it, and the ANC will be returned to power at the next election. How do we change such that the ultimate, and democratic, remedy of booting out the bad guys is fully available and exercised? Imagine a CEO or Exec Chairman in a public company having secure tenure irrespective of how badly they run the company. Whilst the private sector has some egg on its face due to unscrupulous executives, it is doing a good job and certainly much better than the public sector where the wastage and structural failure is at epidemic levels. Let’s remember that the tax that pays for all the ANC nonsense comes in large measure from the corporate sector, the employment it creates, the VAT paid etc. I feel sorriest for the poor and vulnerable who suffer miserably at the ANC’s hands. Where would we be if all the taxes had been invested in service delivery, growing the economy, educating our youth appropriately, and generally doing things properly. It’s not rocket science. It requires the application of basic management principles with caring diligent and ethical leadership. Spare a thought for the entrepreneurs who despite the disgraceful political landscape go to work every day fighting to make their businesses work. These people are the future. We salute their tenacity and diligence. May the ideological nonsense of Mantashe and those like him be exposed for the lie that it is.

    • Andy, for once I read a comment on DM that is worth reading. I do not have the way of words that you have, basically semi-illiterate in the English language, but I can truthfully say, every single word in your comment is something that I share, and I thank you

  • When the editor of DM gets cross, he does not mix words. Well Branco, hope you don’t mind, but I am going “steal” some of your way of words when you do get cross. So here goes:
    For …. sake, what the hell is going on. From one …… … up to another. A tourism minister (where she could not perform) suddenly a health minister. Her predecessor a criminal. Has Ramaphosa simply lost his mind, like virtually the whole of the darn ANC. The deputy president, a criminal, becoming the primary person in the Covid-19 communication. A criminal, Mkhisi, replaced by a nobody.
    In the meantime, people are dying! Vaccines are non-existent. In my town of around 150000 people not a single person has been vaccinated, including doctors, health workers, teachers, 60 (or 70, or 80, or 90) old’s, No sms notifications, despite being so-called registered. Maybe one or two people took a trek of around 300 km to get a vaccine in Cape Town, waiting in a day-long queue.
    Reading some other comments to this article, like “Yippe”, “Good news indeed” etc., I think this country has just gone mad, sitting in darkness because we one again, ten days in a row, have load shedding.
    One of the comments are from Tony Reilly, and I quote “…God help us.” Well, at this stage we do not only need the real God Christ, but also Mohammed, Bhuda, the Greek gods, Zeus, and the whole bunch of gods that ever existed.
    I am sure this comment will be deleted (or “edited”), but at least I got it of my chest

  • And the key character sourcing vaccines – Pillay – is on public record (Sunday Times interview) calling Dr Glenda Grey a liar! Our existence is in the hands of disrespectful personalities…..the fish is rotten at the head …and in the body…..

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