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S/Africa’s health minister apologises for tender award scandal

South Africa's Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, sent on “special leave” following a suspicious US$10.7 million tender awarded to former aides…

South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, sent on “special leave” following a suspicious US$10.7 million tender awarded to former aides trading as Digital Vibes, has apologised to the nation for the disruption brought on by the deal.“I take full responsibility and apologise unreservedly for the outrage regarding the Digital Vibes matter,” the minister said on Wednesday.

Hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa granted him a “special leave” from office, Mkhize said he played no role in the awarding of the lucrative National Health Insurance communications service contract to Digital Vibes, a company headed by former personal assistant Tahera Mather and former secretary Naadhira Mitha. 

Mather and Mitha worked with the minister when he was Treasurer-General at the ruling African National Congress’ head office in Luthuli House in Johannesburg.

“I played no role in the contract nor did I benefit from the contract in anyway,” the minister said, admitting that the issue had tainted his commendable work as leader of the fight against Covid-19.

Digital Vibes was, however, reported to have bought a Toyota Land Cruiser motor vehicle for Mkhize’s unnamed son, allegedly using part of the US$10.7 million tender award funds received from the health ministry, according to reports here.

With four state agencies probing the matter, Ramaphosa said he granted his minister the special leave to enable him concentrate on the issue at hand with the investigators. 

Despite this development, the South African government said it remained committed to and capable of managing the Covid-19 pandemic, executing a ramped-up vaccination programme and running the national programmes under Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the acting Health Minister now.

Health ministry director-general Sandile Buthelezi made the assurance following Mkhize’s departure from office.

“We have noted the President’s decision to place the incumbent Minister of Health on special leave pending the outcome of the Special Investigation Unit’s investigation into the Digital Vibes matter,” Buthelezi said.

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