The Ranch Resort in Polokwane, Limpopo. Picture:
The Ranch Resort in Polokwane, Limpopo. Picture:

Mkhize defends R11m spent on quarantine for repatriates at Limpopo hotel

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Dec 20, 2020

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the provision of accommodation at The Ranch Hotel to the tune of R11 million for South Africans repatriated from Wuhan City in China was done within the emergency acquisition method regulations.

Mkhize said this when he was responding to parliamentary questions from Freedom Front Plus MP Philip van Staden this week.

Van Staden enquired if his department had set a poor example when it procured Covid-19 related goods and services outside the normal procurement procedures, a move that led to various expenditures that are under investigation and suspicion.

The department had in March sent the first group of repatriates from Wuhan to a five-star hotel in Limpopo at a cost of R11 million for 112 people for 14 days.

In his written response, Mkhize said his department followed an established acquisition method for emergency state of affairs.

He said various activities had to be conducted by the country to curb the spread of the virus, which among others, included the repatriation of South Africans from different countries.

"Due to the City of Wuhan being declared as the epicentre of the virus, the South African government prioritised the repatriation of its citizens that were either studying, working or had travelled to China for various reasons."

Mkhize also said a process was followed by the department in conjunction with the South African National Defence Force to identify the most appropriate site for quarantine of the repatriates from Wuhan.

"The repatriation followed immediately after the closure of most businesses. Based on limited knowledge of the virus at the time, not all businesses (in this case accommodation facilities) were willing to take the risk of accommodating people whose status was unknown as well as the consequences that their business would have suffered thereafter."

The minister said 84 facilities were considered for quarantine of which six were inspected across the country.

Only two facilities, The Ranch Hotel and Black Mountain Resorts, were deemed suitable due to weather conditions, which was amongst other considerations.

Mkhize also said both facilities were found willing to take the risk associated with Covid-19 and to accommodate SA Citizens who were repatriated.

The quotation received from Black Mountain Resorts was however considered exorbitant and The Ranch Hotel was a preferred supplier.

"The national Department of Health, therefore, followed the emergency acquisition method in procuring services to accommodate repatriated SA Citizens from Wuhan as indicated in the extract of Instruction Note 3 of 2016/17.

"This was an urgent situation with serious pressures arising Wuhan with our South African citizens in Wuhan regarding food, physical and mental health as well as great deal of stress and anguish by the parents back home."

Mkhize also said they entered into negotiations with the owners of the Ranch for emergency procurement as the repatriates were returning within the same week.

"It must further be noted that the main objective of the Minister and the department at the time was to prioritise the lives of South Africans who were distressed and facing a highly infectious virus in China, hence the followed procurement method in securing proper accommodation for them while waiting for their Covid-19 test results."

Mkhize also said: "We have not found that the national Department of Health has set a poor example by doing business in this kind of manner as the department followed an approved method as per prescripts in procuring services of this nature."

Political Bureau

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