Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has officially been placed on special leave. Picture: Danie van der Lith/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has officially been placed on special leave. Picture: Danie van der Lith/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Zweli Mkhize might also face Parliament’s ethics committee over Digital Vibes tender scandal

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published Jun 9, 2021

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Johannesburg - With Health Minister Zweli Mkhize now officially on special leave, his troubles are seemingly piling up as the DA has vowed to petition Parliament’s ethics committee to probe his conduct amid the Digital Vibes scandal.

On Tuesday night, DA health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said her party would go ahead and file a complaint with the ethics committee against Mkhize after it laid a criminal charge against Mkhize at the Cape Town Central police station.

The latest action by the opposition party comes after the minister failed to appear before the portfolio committee on health this week saying he was advised against it by his legal team.

But the opposition is having none of it with Gwarube stating that: “It is critical the SIU and the ethics committee investigate the matter. The fact he was placed on special leave does not constitute a dismissal. He remains a member of Parliament.”

Mkhize has already written a letter to the ANC’s integrity committee. He is expected to fully account for the corruption saga when he appears before it, notwithstanding the report by the Special Investigative Unit that is expected to be handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa at the end of this month.

Shortly before the presidency announced that Ramaphosa had placed the former ANC treasurer on special leave, Mkhize addressed the media during an oversight visit in Kimberley where he apologised to the nation for the multi-million rand communications tender scandal.

“I acknowledge and take full responsibility for the public outrage that is being caused by the Digital Vibes contract. I also want to state upfront I do not in anyway undermine the voices, the views, the disappointment, the anger and the calls for accountability that have been made by the citizens. The negative discourse has not only impacted on me but it has also had an impact on my family, but most of all has tainted the team work of our government led by the president ... and it has caused disruptions and for all of this I want to reservedly apologise,” he said.

In stating reasons for Mkhize’s special leave a statement by the presidency said: “This period of special leave will enable the minister to attend to allegations and investigations concerning contracts between the Department of Health and a service provider, Digital Vibes. The Special Investigating Unit is investigating this matter and the president awaits a report on the outcome of this probe.”

It said Minister of Tourism Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane would serve as Acting Minister of Health until further notice.

The ANC has meanwhile welcomed Mkhize's decision to present himself to the integrity commission saying it was in line with the resolution of the 54th National Conference aimed at fighting crime and corruption.

Giving an update on the outcomes of the national working committee, acting secretary-general Jessie Duarte welcomed Mkhize’s decision to appear before integrity commission pending the outcome of the SIU investigation.

She also used the opportunity to lodge a veiled attack against some of their party leaders such as Tony Yengeni and suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule who accused senior ANC leaders of allegedly using state resources to deal with their opponents in the party.

Duarte was adamant that the claims made by some of their leaders were unfounded.

“The NWC rejected any insinuation that investigations by law enforcement agencies in general, and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in particular, have been influenced by factors other than those provided for in the law.

“Investigations by the SIU are initiated at the request of government departments, or other state institutions. They are formally proclaimed by the president once due legal processes have been followed,” she said.

Duarte said they welcomed the efforts by the ANC-led government to strengthen law enforcement agencies to allow for swifter identification and prosecution of corruption and fraud and the assurance that there would be no political interference whatsoever in the work of these agencies.

Political analyst Xolani Dube has meanwhile weighed in on the matter saying: “This one is different, he (Ramaphosa) is giving Mkhize a long rope to hang himself and his political career. Mkhize is the only one who is a potential contender against Ramaphosa for the ANC presidency, so this is a game of political elimination because in the ANC and in the South African political landscape, corruption is not a factor for one not to assume a higher political office. This time around the issue of corruption is being used to eliminate a potential political opponent.”

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