Durban - KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize has cleared Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo of any wrongdoing following the row that erupted over Dhlomo’s use of a medical emergency helicopter.
Opposition parties called for Dhlomo’s resignation after it emerged the helicopter had been needed to airlift a car crash victim to hospital. The then sole surviving member of a family of four, 15-year-old Asheen Singh, later succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
It was said at the time, that an emergency helicopter which was minutes away from assisting Singh, was in use by Dhlomo and a helicopter situated over two hours away in Richards Bay, was instead dispatched.
Asked why the nearest helicopter was not available, the department of health said at a press conference held after the trip that Dhlomo had urgently flown to Hlabisa to quell community unrest over a rape scandal involving a doctor and a 16-year-old girl from the district.
Weeks later, after an investigation by the Sunday Tribune, it was revealed that the “emergency” situation attended by Dhlomo was relating to the funeral in Hlabisa, northern KZN, of Zacharia “Cliff” Zungu, husband of Hlabisa Provincial Hospital Manager Dawn Zungu.
The businessman was killed in a car accident near his home.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Dhlomo presented his version of events to the provincial legislature.
In a statement issued at the weekend, Mkhize said: “We note the fact that in Dr Dhlomo’s explanation, it is clear that he has done nothing wrong or malicious.”
Mkhize said there was a long-standing arrangement with the South African Red Cross Air Mercy Service whereby the helicopter in question could be used to support the department in transporting staff, managers and the MEC. - The Mercury, with additional reporting by Jeff Wicks.