Digital Vibes scandal has nothing to do with ANC contest, says Zweli Mkhize
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has denied telling ANC leaders in Pietermaritzburg last week that he was being “targeted” because he was seen as a potential candidate for party president next year.
The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that, according to an insider who attended the meeting, Mkhize was trying to mobilise support within the ruling party as an attempt to push back at those calling for him to resign or be fired.
Mkhize is under growing pressure after Digital Vibes, a company run by his close associates, Tahera Mather and Naadhira Mitha — who both worked on his 2017 ANC presidential campaign — had won a R150m contract to handle communications first for the National Health Insurance and, later, Covid-19.
The insider told the Sunday Times that Mkhize told the regional leaders that he was “being targeted as a person with potential to contest in 2022".
The Sunday Times specifically asked Mkhize about this prior to the story being published, but he opted not to respond to this particular allegation. But in a statement to media on Monday, Mkhize denied saying that the Digital Vibes saga was linked to ANC matters, specifically the party's electoral conference next year.
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“The minister has noted with concern the Sunday Times report which refers to a 'source' who attended a meeting with Dr Mkhize over the weekend. He specifically mentions 2022. The minister wishes to clarify that he does not believe that this investigation has anything to do with ANC politics or as referred to in the article, '2022'," the statement reads.
The health ministry added in the statement that it was Mkhize who “advised the DG [director-general] to conduct an independent investigation after receiving the AG [auditor-general] report that recommended that the department must interrogate possible overcharging by Digital Vibes”.
“It was also the minister who briefed [the] president [Cyril Ramaphosa] about this investigation, thereafter the SIU publicly announced that it would use an already existing proclamation looking into matters of Covid-19 contracts malfeasance.
“In any event, even before the SIU took over the investigation, the department of health had initiated its own investigation. It is therefore disingenuous to allege that this is linked to any political contestation. At no point has the minister blamed the president for this investigation,” the statement reads.
It concluded by saying that Mkhize was co-operating with the investigation, “and will ensure that the department continues to do its work in rolling out the vaccination programme and puts the necessary measures in place to mitigate the risk of the third wave”.