President Ramaphosa places Minister Mkhize on special leave over tender saga

Zweli Mkhize has been placed on special leave for him to "attend to allegations and investigations" about Department of Health service provider, Digital Vibes.

FILE: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize visited the Northern Cape to assess the province's COVID-19 vaccine rollout on 8 June 2021. Picture: Northern Cape Department of Health.

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has on Tuesday placed Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on special leave.

"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 in a short statement released on Tuesday afternoon.

"The Special Investigating Unit is investigating this matter and the president awaits a report on the outcome of this probe."

The embattled health minister has been under pressure from some quarters to step aside, in the wake of the Digital Vibes contract scandal.

The company is owned by people Mkhize himself called "fellow comrades" and was awarded a contract worth millions of rand, which was flagged by the Auditor-General as irregular and potentially wasteful spending.

It since emerged Mkhize and his son also might have benefitted personally from the deal.

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Mkhize told the media on Tuesday afternoon after a visit to the Northern Cape to assess the province's COVID-19 vaccine rollout that while special leave had been discussed, his possible resignation had not come up with the president.

“I have approached the president on the issue of special leave and that’s all the discussion has been about.”

He also asked that Ramaphosa be given space to deal with the matter.

“I have made sure the president is fully briefed on everything and if there is any issue that needs to be discussed, I am always available.”

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Some insiders are claiming Mkhize had long been prepared to vacate his office.

But others claim discussions around leave happened at the ANC’s national working committee, which only met on Monday.

It’s there where Ramaphosa said he would take counsel from the NWC.

Pressure has been mounting on Mkhize and his boss to take action in the wake of the Digital Vibes revelations.

And this week, Mkhize’s office dismissed reported links between the probe into Digital Vibes and the ANC’s 2022 elective conference.

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