President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed minister of health Dr Zweli Mkhize on special leave while the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) conducts investigations into allegations of corruption at the health department.
“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 is investigating this matter and the president awaits a report on the outcome of this probe.”
Minister of tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will serve as acting minister of health until further notice.
Mkhize has been under scrutiny after the health department awarded a R150 million 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, news website Daily Maverick reported.
South Africa’s Special Investigative Unit was appointed to probe the matter, and on 26 May 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. He also denied benefitting in any way from the contract or Digital Vibes.
However, reports have pointed to how Digital Vibes paid for maintenance work on the minister’s home, as well as giving hundreds of thousands of rands to Mhize’s son’s business.
The SIU plans to complete its investigation this month.