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Another possible Covid graft scandal plagues S. Africa's government

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South Africa

Another possible coronavirus-linked corruption scandal is embroiling South Africa's government as there are serious allegations of wrongdoing against Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

Last week, media reports said his ex-spokesperson and former personal assistant, reportedly received millions of rand in irregular payments. which is linked to a communication contract around Covid-19.

Mkhize has admitted money from his department reached a company called Digital Vibes – a company run by his former campaign media manager was "irregularly awarded".

Among the suspected irregularities is a $217,000 payment to the company for setting up an interview between the minister and the national broadcaster, for the announcement of the second wave.

But Mkhize has denied any personal links and said he did not benefit from the contract.

The sandal comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised a crackdown on corruption as the ANC faces pressure followiing the reign of former president Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign in 2018 over graft scandals.

He has also said that those involved in Covid-19 wrongdoing will be dealt with “harshly and appropriately”.

Investigators are reviewing more than 4,000 contracts for services and supplies related to the fight against the coronavirus. About 40% of suspicious contracts have been reviewed, said the head of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Andy Mothibi.

"We continue to receive new allegations of mismanagement and irregularities," he added.

Its unit, under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice, has been interested since last year in dozens of companies, some linked to political networks, which have been awarded lucrative contracts as part of the government's fight against the pandemic.

The SIU had already revealed in February that the equivalent of nearly 14 million euros had been siphoned off last year by corruption, fraud and inflated prices for protective equipment provided to public hospitals.

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