Parliament’s Health Committee Chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo has welcomed the special leave granted to Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Dhlomo says this is in line with Mkhize’s request and earlier commitment that he will not stand in the way of investigations into the Digital Vibes tender if he is implicated.

President Cyril Ramaphosa placed Mkhize on special leave yesterday, pending the outcome of investigations into the multimillion-rand Digital Vibes contract by the Special Investigating Unit. Tourism Minister Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will act in Mkhize’s position.

Dhlomo elaborates, “I think it is important to recognise that the Minister himself had actually approached the President for a request for special leave. And if you can recall in the previous meeting in the Portfolio Committee, the Minister said he will not be in the way of any investigations of this tender, if it touches his name. We think it is in keeping with that understanding to say can I (Mkhize) allow this whole process to go on with the investigations and probably take a leave, so, we welcome this as the Portfolio Committee. We don’t think there is going to be an issue that will affect this roll out of the vaccination in the country, because Dr Mkhize is and was working with a collective as a team that is really hands-on.”

Political parties react

The Congress of the People (COPE) says it rejects President Ramaphosa’s decision to place Mkhize on special leave. COPE says Mkhize should have been fired.

COPE spokesperson Dennis Bloem says, “COPE rejects President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to place Minister Zweli Mkhize on special leave. President Ramaphosa should fire Zweli Mkhize. The corruption allegations against him are very serious. Corruption in this country will never stop when these people are being treated with kid gloves. We cannot trust him anymore with the fight against COVID-19.”

Political parties react to Mkhize’s placement on special leave:

Meanwhile, in welcoming President Ramaphosa’s decision to place Mkhize on special leave, the Freedom Front-Plus leader Pieter Groenewald says Ramaphosa should have acted much swiftly and earlier.

“The Freedom Front Plus welcomes the decision of the President to put the Health Minister Dr Mkhize on special leave. In fact, the President should have acted much earlier. He should not have waited until so much pressure is put on him as President to act in their specific case. We would also like to see that in future, any allegations against any Minister in his cabinet of misconduct, or specific cases of corruption, that they also put those members immediately on special leave. That is the right thing to do and to ensure that there is clean administration in his cabinet.”

DA Shadow Health Minister Siviwe Gwarube says the party will lay a complaint with Parliament’s Ethics Committee against Mkhize. She says the committee must investigate Mkhize’s possible contravention of Section 5 of the Ethical Code. She also says the Portfolio Committee on Health has failed to do its work in holding him to account for his actions.