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South Africa: Covid scandal could jab Health Minister Mkhize’s presidential ambitions

By Anna Maree
Posted on Tuesday, 1 June 2021 17:30

Virus Outbreak South Africa
Zweli Mkhize, South Africa's Health Minister in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

South Africa's health minister Zweli Mkhize is the latest and the most high profile government leader to become embroiled in the country's growing list of Covid-19-related scandals, so far totalling almost R2bn ($146m).

Formal investigations into the R159m ($11.5m) health department tender linked to Mkhize are still ongoing, but media reports are so damning that President Cyril Ramaphosa will be forced to act. He has previously promised that those involved in Covid-19 wrongdoing will be dealt with “harshly and appropriately”.

Mkhize, a former presidential hopeful, has admitted that the communications tender from his department to a company called Digital Vibes – a company run by his former campaign media manager – was irregularly awarded.

The contract was for providing communications about the government’s planned National Health Insurance in 2019. Months later, when Covid-19 struck, the contract was extended to cover the pandemic.

Among the suspected irregularities is a R3m ($217,741) payment to the company, for setting up an interview between the minister and the national broadcaster SABC, for the announcement of the second wave of Covid-19.

Mkhize has denied any personal links. “I did not participate in the company’s appointment process, I did not in any way influence the selection of employees or consultants of the company,” he said in a press briefing on 26 May. “Let me categorically state that I have not personally benefitted from this contract.”