Dear President Ramaphosa,
Your silence on the unfolding saga around health minister Zweli Mkhize and the irregularly awarded Digital Vibes contract can no longer be justified or accepted.
Unless you speak up on the issue and follow this with action against the errant minister, South Africans will be left with no choice but to believe that his behaviour has your blessing.
The verified information already in the public domain is more than enough to satisfy any possible requirement for action on your part. This R150-million contract was not only irregularly awarded — as the minister has publicly conceded — but it was indeed signed off by the minister himself, which in itself is highly irregular and reason for alarm.
By now you should know better than to take at face value an accused member of your executive’s claims that he or she didn’t know the details of a particular contract, or isn’t acquainted with a particular individual.
The minister’s signature on the contract, along with the subsequent revelations of reciprocal largesse from Digital Vibes towards the minister and his son, outweigh his solemn protestation of innocence many times over.
If he continues to serve in your Cabinet in the face of this evidence, we can reasonably assume that he does so with your full approval.
Talking about cleaning up your government and your party is easy, which is why we have heard you do so much of it in recent years. However, doing it is another matter entirely. It’s not good enough to only direct this clean-up action at your political enemies inside the ANC.
Yes, the likes of Ace Magashule must step aside — and then be charged and prosecuted — but the same goes for those whom you consider your allies, or at least not politically hostile towards you. If they abuse the system for personal gain, they too must go.
This scandal around minister Mkhize has now progressed way beyond the point where you can still claim to be assessing the information in order to make a decision. You need to act.
But we in the DA know better than to hold out hope for such action.
After all, you took no action against public works minister Patricia De Lille for her role in the infamous Beitbridge “washing line” border fence scandal. And you’ve said nothing yet on your deputy minister of state security Zizi Kodwa’s outrageous kickbacks scandal.
Selective intolerance for corruption does not serve the interests of the people of South Africa, which is why the DA will take action of our own.
On 2 June 2021, the DA shadow minister for health, Siviwe Gwarube, laid criminal charges against minister Mkhize as well as health director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi for contravening both the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and the Public Finance Management Act. The latter specifies that contracts must be signed off by an accounting officer and not the executive authority — something minister Mkhize would have known.
Our scope for action may be limited compared to what you can do as president and head of the executive, but rest assured, we will do everything in our power to keep the corrupt far away from public money.
Citizens of South Africa need to see the same commitment from their president. Please do not disappoint them.
John Steenhuisen: Leader, Democratic Alliance. DM