Calls grow for S African health minister's resignation amid corruption allegations

·3-min read

Johannesburg, May 30 (PTI) South African politicians are calling for the resignation of health minister Zweli Mkhize for his alleged involvement in a multi-million-rand corruption scam involving a company run by three Indian-origin women.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was waiting for the final report of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report before taking a call on the issue.

Mkhize is accused of granting an irregular 150 million rands communication tender to Digital Vibes company.

Mkhize, the public face of the government in the COVID-19 pandemic, has been widely hailed for his efforts and regular public statements on the status of the pandemic in the country. In some circles, he was even being touted as the prime candidate to be the next president of the country.

But now his political future is in the balance after details of a deal with the company Digital Vibes, run by three South African Indian-origin women, two of them reportedly having worked closely with Mkhize during his 2017 bid to become President of the African National Congress (ANC).

Ramaphosa was elected the president at that conference.

The allegations include claims that Mkhize’s family benefited from the tender awarded to Thera Mather and Naadhira Mitha.

The weekly Sunday Times reported that Mather and Mitha have fallen out with Radha Hariram, the director of Digital Vibes, who has opened a case of fraud against the two.

Although Mkhize has denied any benefit from the contract, reports have indicated that his son had been part of the work outsourced by the company.

The Congress of the People (COPE) national spokesperson Dennis Bloem said the latest allegations against Mkhize were damning and he cannot be allowed to continue working as a minister and should be fired immediately as his reputation and integrity were now questionable.

“We reject the notion of what Mkhize called 'allegations of irregular and fruitless expenditure on the contract of Digital Vibes'. It is daylight corruption and in fact criminal charges must be laid against all who are involved,” Bloem said.

“COPE reiterates our call to Ramaphosa to fire Mkhize and demonstrate to the country that he is serious about fighting corruption. We will not get tired of fighting against corruption. We will not rest until we see all the corrupt thieves behind bars,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying by South African news website IOL.

Mkhize's signature appears on contracts, which an independent investigation by financial auditors and tax consultants found to be irregular.

Health department director-general Sandile Buthelezi told the Sunday Times it was a practice in the department for the minister to sign a submission after a contract has been approved by the accounting officer.

Hariram’s lawyer, Sumen Pillay, confirmed that his client had brought fraud charges against Mather and Mitha.

“I cannot disclose more ... because the matter is at a sensitive stage in terms of investigation and in terms of co-operation with the authorities. Charges have been laid and are being investigated by the police,' Pillay said.

A police source told said Hariram had trusted her two colleagues with her passwords to conduct work while she was ill.

Hariram later discovered alleged 'unlawful transactions', and a forensic team traced disbursements made to Mather and Mitha's families without her knowledge.

Mather, who was reported to be very close to Mkhize’s family, could not be reached for a comment. PTI FH MRJ MRJ

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