President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on special leave as the Digital Vibes scandal continues to make headlines.
This is according to a statement issued by the Presidency on Tuesday (8 June). The leave is effective immediately.
‘Attend to allegations’
“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 Presidency said.
“The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is investigating this matter and the President awaits a report on the outcome of this probe.”
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will act in Mkhize’s capacity “until further notice.”
Mkhize is embroiled in a R150 million communications contract scandal awarded to Digital Vibes by the Health Department.
According to various Daily Maverick reports, Digital Vibes is allegedly controlled by Mkhize’s former spokesperson Tahera Mather and former personal assistant Naadhira Mitha.
The Minister told the media recently that an internal probe had flagged the contract as “irregular.” He however denied wrongdoing.
“Irregularities include inconsistencies in the bid committees to a lack of disclosure of conflict of interest,” he said, adding that Mathe and Mitha were not his friends but “comrades.”
“[W]e will leave no stone unturned on this matter. Consequence management will be applied. A Senior Counsel has already been appointed to recover some of the money spent,” Mkhize added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mkhize was in the Northern Cape inspecting vaccination sites. He told reporters that he had discussed with Ramaphosa the possibility of taking special leave.
“I have approached the President on the issue of special leave and that is all that the discussion was about,” he said, suggesting that talk of his resignation is premature.
Last week, Ramaphosa emphasised that he was “dealing with the matter,” adding that the SIU investigation should be allowed to conclude.
“I had a discussion with the minister and he is cooperating fully and completely on this matter. What I can say to South Africans is that I am dealing with this matter and there is full cooperation from the minister. Let us allow this process to unfold and thereafter we will know what needs to be done,” he said.
ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte said on Tuesday that the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) had welcomed Mkhize’s decision to present himself before the Integrity Commission.