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South African Health Minister on special leave to handle allegations

Zweli Mkhize on special leave following irregular contract investigation.   -  
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Themba Hadebe/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

South Africa

The Health Minister of South Africa Zweli Mkhize, has been placed on special leave the Presidency said in a statement on Tuesday.

The decision was taken so that he might "attend to allegations and investigations concerning contracts between the Department of Health and a service provider, Digital Vibes."

Mkhize told journalists, a short while earlier, that he had discussed with President Cyril Ramaphosa the possibility of taking special leave, but added that resignation was not on the table.

The Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will assume his ministerial duties.

Professor Teffo Lesiba, a political analyst from the University of South Africa, shares some insight into the situation.

"Better late than never. And indeed, it's never too late to do the right thing. As president, he should have acted much earlier, because there was so much in the public space and there was enough documentary evidence to compel him to advise the minister not to step down, but at least to step aside as the processes unfold."

Digital Vibes is run by two of Mkhize's close associates -- and the Daily Maverick reported that the company had made payments for repairs to a house owned by a trust in Mkhize's name.

There was also a cash payment from Digital Vibes to his son, Dedani, as well as a car bought in his name.

Mkhize said work had started to recover R37 million of that money, which was found to have been fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Mkhize has also apologised, saying in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, "it has affected me, and my family, and tainted the teamwork of our government led by the president."

Professor Teffo Lesiba added more commentary.

"On just administering the vaccines, even communication, in this regard we have performed poorly. Right. It's just that the people are fairly generous in their support and disposition towards the current president. I wonder if it had been that the previous one, would they have been so understanding? We haven't done well. He wouldn't leave a void. And I still believe even within the ANC and even the current executive.

The Special Investigating Unit is looking into the questionable roughly 9 million euro equivalent contract and Mkhize -- although he said he had received legal advice not to talk about the details of the matter - and therefore did not attend a meeting of Parliament's portfolio committee on health on Friday, is to appear before the ANC's integrity commission.

Commission head George Mashamba confirmed he had received a letter from Mkhize, in which he requested an audience with the commission, which meets every Saturday.

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said the party's national working committee, at its meeting on Monday, "welcomed" Mkhize's decision to present himself to the integrity commission.

The party resolved at its 2017 conference at Nasrec that leaders, who are under a cloud, should subject themselves to the commission.

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