Zweli Mkhize considers quitting over Digital Vibes scandal: sources

04 June 2021 - 17:29 By Paul Vecchiatto and Loni Prinsloo
Health minister Zweli Mkhize is considering resigning, according to a report quoting two people familiar with the matter. File photo.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize is considering resigning, according to a report quoting two people familiar with the matter. File photo.
Image: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Health minister Zweli Mkhize is considering resigning over an investigation into a tender scandal, according to two people familiar with the matter.

President Cyril Ramaphosa discussed with Mkhize three options, including that he be moved out of cabinet in a reshuffle or that he voluntarily step aside temporarily while the probe continues, said one of the people who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorised to speak about the matter. The third option is that Mkhize quit, the person said.

Mkhize didn’t answer calls or respond to a request for comment sent by mobile phone. Health ministry spokesperson Lwazi Manzi didn’t respond to requests for comment sent by text message, and presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale declined to comment.

The departure of Mkhize, whose name has been mentioned as a potential successor to Ramaphosa, would leave the president with two crucial vacancies in his cabinet, the other being that of minister in the presidency. There has been speculation for the past year that a cabinet change is imminent. Ramaphosa said on Thursday he would make an announcement only when he sees fit.

Gwen Ramokgopa, a former Gauteng health MEC, is a favourite to succeed Mkhize as minister, the people said. An ally of Ramaphosa, Ramokgopa was last month elected to the ruling party’s National Working Committee.

Mkhize has been under scrutiny after the health department awarded a R150m contract to Digital Vibes, a company controlled by two of Mkhize’s former aides, to help communicate the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The money was largely wasted and proper procurement processes weren’t followed, Daily Maverick reported.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was appointed to probe the matter, and on May 26 Mkhize told reporters the deal was irregular and disciplinary action would be taken against those responsible. While describing public outrage as “justified”, he denied playing any role in the contract award or that he was friends with the people working there.

The SIU said on Thursday it plans to complete its investigation this month.

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