Mkhize's Digital Vibes controversy raises alarm for NHI rollout - Sama

By Kelly Jane Turner Time of article published Jun 10, 2021

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Corruption in the national Department of Health and the recent allegations against Minister Zweli Mkhize and the Digital Vibes debacle, cast doubts on the department’s ability to effectively manage large-scale projects, including the future rollout of National Health Insurance (NHI).

The South African Medical Association (Sama) said on Thursday that the development surrounding Mkhize has far reaching consequences for health provision in the country, and casts a cloud on plans to roll out NHI.

Earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa placed Zweli Mkhize on special leave to attend to the allegations of corruption, around a R150 million communications tender awarded to a company linked to a close associate of the minister.

Chairperson of Sama, Dr Angelique Coetzee said that corruption in the health sector will compromise the ability of healthcare workers and the system at large to provide services.

“Previous scandals and allegations of corruption involving the provision of personal protective equipment and now the allegations against the Minister, bring into doubt the department’s ability to effectively manage large-scale projects. NHI will be the biggest project of the department ever and based on the current track record we have to voice our concerns over whether this will be repeated when that happens,” said Coetzee.

The medical association said that it remained committed to the ideals of Universal Health Coverage, however, the recent controversy raiseed issues about NHI and how it will be implemented.

“What the recent developments point to is a great need for more accountability in the structures of the NHI, accountability which is not currently part of the Bill. Dr Mkhize’s relationship with Digital Vibes, and the allegations he benefited personally from contracts awarded by the department, make the inclusion of such provisions essential,” said Coetzee.

The move to place Mkhize on special leave will also have an adverse impact on the country’s already struggling Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Standing in for Mkhize as acting Minister of Health until further notice is Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

In a press release, Kubayi-Ngubane assured the country that government remains committed and capable of managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The new Acting Minister will immediately have a full plate of issues to deal with when she steps into this role, not the least of these being the biggest ever vaccination rollout programme in South Africa’s history. We certainly hope the vaccination programme doesn’t lose the little momentum it currently has, because the country cannot afford any more delays in this regard,” said Coetzee.

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