Digital Vibes scandal a blow for Mkhize's ambitions and the ANC, say insiders

President Cyril Ramaphosa put Zweli Mkhize on special leave on Tuesday following damning allegations of corruption over the awarding of the contract.

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

JOHANNESBURG - Embattled Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has sought to pour cold water over claims that politics was involved in the Digital Vibes investigation but insiders said that the scandal was a blow both to his own personal ambitions and to his party.

President Cyril Ramaphosa put Mkhize on special leave on Tuesday following damning allegations of corruption over the awarding of the contract.

The business was worth R150 million and it went to close associates of Mkhize.

At the time, he said he took full responsibility and apologised unreservedly as outrage mounted.

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There are those who've punted Mkhize as a potential candidate for African National Congress (ANC) deputy president.

Now, with 18 months to go until the ANC’s elective conference, some members were already grappling with the implications of this scandal.

And while there have been reports of a man ready to call it quits, some said that Mkhize has been treading very carefully, trying not to further dent his image or completely destroy his own potential to be elected into more senior roles.

He is said to have returned to his home province this past weekend, ostensibly to drum up support there.

And many in KwaZulu-Natal have described this week as nothing more than a blow, saying that the ANC in the province saw a return to the party’s top 6 through Mkhize.

Members also expected Mkhize to unite the many regions across the province.

Meanwhile, the ANC’s national working committee has rubbished claims that law enforcement agencies were being used in political battles.

FIRST MOVE?

As South Africans process the news that Mkhize has been placed on special leave, there are questions about whether he initiated the move or whether the president acted first.

The ANC rumour mill has been churning with whispers that the Health minister wants to resign but at the same time Mkhize was a no-show before MPs last week, which could have provided him a platform from which to explain himself.

Fast forward to this week and again the Health minister implied that it was he who asked for the president to put him on special leave, yet his diary for the week was full, including webinars and tours of medical facilities in the Northern Cape.

Eyewitness News understands that President Ramaphosa had notified the minister of his decision to place him on special leave even before a media alert was released from Mkhize’s office detailing his movements on Tuesday.

And while Mkhize insisted Tuesday that he was the one who asked for the leave, the president's statement clearly said that he was placing the minister on special leave.

WATCH: Ramaphosa puts Mkhize on special leave after he apologises for Digital Vibes scandal

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