Johannesburg - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office plans to lay a criminal case against Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize over his non-compliance with subpoena issued by her office.
The Public Protector’s office said on Thursday that a case would be opened at the Brooklyn Police Station in Tshwane this week. Mkhwebane said she had no choice but to initiate contempt procedures against the minister.
Mkhize was subpoenaed to give evidence regarding an investigation into the Department of Health’s alleged failure to implement recommendations of a 2017 clinical associate task team report.
Subpoena notices were sent to Mkhize on February 4, 2021 for him to appear before Mkhwebane. Other notices were issued on March 18, April 21, and May 24.
Mkhwebane’s office said with each notice, the Department of Health said Mkhize was unavailable.
The Public Protector had the legislative powers to summon persons to give evidence or produce documentation, the office said.
“In terms of section 7(4)(a) of the Public Protector Act, read with section 7(5) of the same legislation, the Public Protector has the power to direct any person to submit an affidavit or affirmation or to appear before her to give evidence or produce any document in their possession or under their control, which has a bearing on a matter under investigation,” the PP’s office said.
If a person fails to honour such requests they face a prison sentence or a fine of up to R40 000, Mkhwebane explained.
“It is critical for state functionaries to understand that compliance with our investigations is not optional. No less than the Constitution of the Republic enjoins other organs of state to support and assist the Public Protector to ensure the institution’s independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness,” she said.
The Public Protector is investigating a complaint against the Department of Health for allegedly not implementing the recommendations of a clinical associates task team report which was concluded in 2017.
Mkhize has been facing mounting pressure to step down as health minister because of an irregular communications tender that was awarded to Digital Vibes. The company is run by his former associates and pocketed over R100 million from the Department of Health.
An internal investigation found that the payments made were irregular. The Special Investigations Unit is currently probing the matter.
Mkhize has denied benefiting from the contract. But an investigation by news site Daily Maverick shows his family home, owned under a family trust, had benefited from upgrades funded by Digital Vibes.
His son, Dedani Mkhize, had a vehicle purchased by Digital Vibes.
The DA has opened a criminal case against Mkhize on Thursday regarding the Digital Vibes matter.
The party said the SIU probe was not enough and that a criminal investigation should be conducted.