Zweli Mkhize

Last updated

Zweli Mkhize
MP
Zweli Mkhize Willowfontein and Muzi Thusi School visit.jpg
Minister of Health of South Africa
In office
30 May 2019 5 August 2021

Since the first case in South Africa was detected in March 2020, Mkhize has provided leadership over the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. [2]

Digital Vibes scandal and resignation

On 23 May 2021, Daily Maverick reported that communications company Digital Vibes, a firm headed by Tahera Mather, a friend of Mkhize, and Naadhira Mitha, Mkhize's former personal assistant, received a tender worth R150 million through a closed tender process in 2019 to provide communications services for the national government's National Health Insurance rollout and later the COVID-19 pandemic. R90 million of the R150 million was allegedly channelled to organisations set up by Mather and Mitha, to personal bank accounts and businesses of Mather's family, and to other third parties. Only R40 million was paid to legitimate service providers, while the last R20 million is reportedly unaccounted for. [21]

Mather and Mitha had worked on Mkhize's campaign for ANC president in 2017 and Mkhize is reported to have had a key role in Digital Vibes' alleged scheme. [21] Digital Vibes charged the national health department millions of rands to coordinate Mkhize's press briefings, media interviews and other events during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to set up Mkhize's official announcement that South Africa had entered the second wave of COVID-19 infections in December 2020. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Digital Vibes reportedly charged the health department for NHI-projects at overinflated prices. Daily Maverick had reported in February 2021 that Digital Vibes had received R82 million, but this figure excluded payments that were made for Digital Vibes' work on the NHI and other transfers. [21]

Mkhize distanced himself from the allegations and denied having a conflict of interest. The acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said that the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) had been instructed to investigate allegations. [22] On 28 May, Daily Maverick reported that Digital Vibes had allegedly paid for maintenance work at a property owned by Mkhize's family trust and gave R300,000 to a business owned by Mkhize's son, Dedani. [23]

On 1 June 2021, Daily Maverick reported that Digital Vibes had allegedly bought a second-hand Toyota Land Cruiser for Mkhize's son, Dedani. [24]

On 9 June 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa put Zweli Mkhize on special leave, after allegations that his ministry improperly awarded contracts related to the fight against the coronavirus to a communications company controlled by his former associates. [25]

On 29 July 2021, the Special Investigative Unit's report was released and it was revealed that Mkhize's son Dedani had allegedly received "boxes of cash" from a key figure in the corruption scandal. Dedani met with Radha Hariram, the director of Digital Vibes, at a petrol station in Stanger in KwaZulu-Natal, where he allegedly received money from the contract. The SIU accused Mkhize of improper conduct for his role and wants to reclaim about R3,8 million from Dedani. The SIU argued that the contract was unlawfully awarded and the unit is now seeking that it be reviewed and set aside by a court. The SIU also seeks to reclaim R150-million from multiple recipients of the alleged looting scheme. [26] [27]

Mkhize resigned as minister of health on 5 August 2021. [28]

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References

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  25. David McKenzie and Schams Elwazer. "South African health minister placed "on special leave" pending investigation into awarding of contracts". CNN. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  26. Mkentane, Luyolo (29 July 2021). "SIU makes damning finding against Zweli Mkhize in Digital Vibes contract probe" . BusinessDay. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
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  28. Tandwa, Lizeka (5 August 2021). "Mkhize tenders resignation as Ramaphosa calls top six meeting, fueling cabinet reshuffle speculation". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Health
2019–
Incumbent
Preceded by Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
2018–2019
Succeeded by
Preceded by Premier of KwaZulu-Natal
2009–2013
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Treasurer General of the African National Congress
2012–2017
Succeeded by