Health Minister Zweli Mkhize came under fire as the budget vote for his department was passed on Friday in the National Assembly. File picture: GCIS
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize came under fire as the budget vote for his department was passed on Friday in the National Assembly. File picture: GCIS

Absent Zweli Mkhize comes under fire in Parliament as MPs slam him for Digital Vibes tender saga

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Jun 4, 2021

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Cape Town - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, in absentia, came under fire in Parliament as the budget vote for his department was passed on Friday in the National Assembly with 202 votes against 120.

Opposition MPs slated the minister for the controversial R150m Digital Vibes communications tender.

Mkhize did not attend the meeting of the health portfolio committee because he told MPs he had been given legal advice that he should not attend the meeting due to the pending investigation by the SIU and the subsequent criminal charges which had been laid against him by the DA in Cape Town on Thursday.

Speaking during the consideration of the department of health’s budget vote, DA MP Siviwe Gwarube said all the country needed was a government which worked for the people and a government which ensured public money was spent to deliver services.

She however said the ANC remained an albatross around the neck and R14 billion in Covid-19 relief was under investigation by the Special Investigation Unit.

Gwarube accused ANC MPs of being concerned with toeing the party line and retaining their seats. Some ANC MPs had defended the minister, saying the matter was sub judice as a criminal charge had been opened by the DA on Thursday.

“We cannot support a budget that doesn't prioritise our people and health workers who stitch the health system together,” Gwarube said.

EFF MP Suzan Thembekwayo said the Auditor-General had found PPE contracts awarded to businesses that do not have a history of providing such services at prices of higher market rate and sub-standard quality, while the SIU found the biggest corruption in the PPE.

She said all of that happened under Mkhize’s watch, who claimed to know everything, except corruption.

“As urgent response to your failures we unequivocally call on minister of health Zweli Mkhize to step down,” she said.

She said her party could not support the budget when Mkhize could not appear before the portfolio committee to respond to MP’s questions and failed to meet targets he set for rollout of the vaccines.

She said the ANC MPs were shielding failing MECs and a minister.

“Save us from yourself and leave the office. The EFF unapologetically rejects this report,” she said.

Freedom Front MP Philip Staden urged Mkhize to step up and be honest by providing clarity on matters related to the Digital Vibes contract before SIU released a report in June.

“The Freedom Front demands that the SIU investigate all Covid contracts where Minister Mkhize is involved,” Van Staden said.

ACDP’s Marie Sukers said it was sad that the country faced a critical time, a situation where Mkhize were implicated in irregular contracts.

“Allegation and acts of wide scale corruption have prevented a unified stand during pandemic. It is eating away the resolve and belief of people in the government,” she said.

Sukers also said the AG had in her report noted information provided by the department was unreliable and key areas needed improvement.

NFP’s Munzoor Shaik Emam said there was no doubt that the health sector was in crisis.

He said the capacity of rolling out vaccines in the country was a challenge and supply of drugs.

The NFP’s Shaik Emam took a swipe at the government for not urgently approving the Invermectin vaccine.

ANC MP Kenneth Jacobs said the budget vote was to ensure promotion of good health for the people of South Africa.

He raised concern with the budget decrease but said they have to collectively work together to ensure NHI was implemented to accommodate all South Africans.

Political Bureau

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