Mkhize urged to ’do the right thing and resign’

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Jun 7, 2021

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AS pressure mounts on President Cyril Ramaphosa to act on embattled Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, there are some who are calling on the minister to make it easy for the president and resign from his position.

According to political analyst Professor Lesiba Teffo, Mkhize should do the right thing and fall on his sword.

“I don't think it would be a loss to have Mkhize out because he hasn’t done well so far in the fight against Covid-19. We could have done better in procuring more vaccines and with the rollout,” he said.

Teffo also added that the minister had not covered himself in glory in how he handled the pandemic.

Before the controversial multi-million rand Digital Vibes communications tender scandal broke, Mkhize had been trusted by many and praised for how he handled the pandemic in the earlier days.

Despite his earlier achievements and involvement in the country’s response to Covid, communications specialist Chris Vick says having Mkhize in government is a distraction that the government doesn’t need now.

“Government’s eye is being distracted from the importance of the rollout of Covid-19 vaccine and the pandemic and it’s having to deal with this issue. I think the biggest concern right now is that we need all hands on deck, all minds focused on the key challenges. We don’t need this kind of distraction and the best way to deal with the distraction is for him to step down from the public light,” Vick said.

Responding to questions on how the allegations levelled against Mkhize will affect the Covid-19 vaccination programme, Ramaphosa said the corruption allegations faced by Mkhize will not derail the programme.

“The vaccination process is under the direction of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) which the deputy president is leading. I get reports on the arrival of vaccine doses from the IMC, led by David Mabuza, on a regular basis,” he said.

“The country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme would not be ‘derailed’ by corruption allegations faced by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize,” he said.

Mkhize is the latest high-ranking government official to be engulfed in a Covid-19 tender scandal. Last year corruption allegations for PPE procurements were levelled against President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko and then Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku. As a result, Diko was placed on suspension and Masuku was fired as Health MEC.

Mkhize conceded that the R150 million contract was irregular, but claimed that he had not personally benefited from it, adding that he did not declare a conflict of interest because he believed there was none.

However, more evidence emerged later showing that the communications firms allegedly made at least two payments to a contractor for maintenance and repair work at a Johannesburg property owned by Mkhize’s ZLM Trust.

Digital Vibes also allegedly transferred at least R300 000 to a company owned by Mkhize’s son in May last year.

A report revealed that Digital Vibes made two payments, one in June and the other in July last year, totalling nearly R7 000, to settle invoices from an electrical contractor for work at an upmarket townhouse in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

Political parties have also added their voice to those calling for Mkhize’s head. Siviwe Gwarube, the DA spokesperson and MP serving in Parliament’s portfolio committee on health, said Mkhize should step down pending a full Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigation.

“It is now clear that this looting of public money has happened under the leadership of Dr Mkhize while there is a glaring conflict of interest. It cannot be that the very person entrusted with the Covid-19 response in the country is embroiled in this kind of scandal involving public money,” Gwarube said.

The SIU is expected to conclude its investigation into Digital Vibes and Mkhize’s role at the end of this month.

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