South African President Cyril Ramaphosa put his Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, on special leave on Tuesday after allegations his ministry irregularly awarded COVID-19-related contracts to a communications company controlled by his former partners.
Ahead of Ramaphosa’s statement, the minister apologized for the public anger at the allegations, the latest in a series linked to coronavirus-related tenders that angered a public suffering from economic hardship induced by the pandemic. Mkhize denied any personal wrongdoing.
Ramaphosa, who has promised corruption during the COVID-19 pandemic will be treated harshly, said the special leave would allow Mkhize to respond to an investigation into contracts between his department and service provider Digital Vibes.
Mkhize said, “I fully recognize and take personal responsibility for the public outrage that has been caused by this Digital Vibes contract.”
“The negative rhetoric has (…) marred the teamwork of our government which is led by the president in our continued efforts to fight COVID-19. (…) For all of this, I want to m ‘apologize wholeheartedly,’ he added.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will serve as interim health minister until further notice, Ramaphosa’s office said.
The Special Investigation Unit said an investigation it was conducting was nearing completion. The report will be given to Ramaphosa to decide what to do next.
In May, Mkhize said a forensic investigation revealed that the nomination process for Digital Vibes, led by its former personal assistant and secretary, was flawed, as was over 150 million rand ($ 11 million). paid to the company.
Daily Maverick, which first broke news of the contract in February, said the company was appointed in late 2019 to provide communications services for the government’s national health insurance rollout.
The scope of work was extended in March 2020 to include communication related to COVID-19.
($ 1 = Rand 13.5644)
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