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More headaches for Mkhize as public protector lays contempt charge

Under-fire health minister Zweli Mkhize now faces a fresh legal challenge in the form of contempt proceedings initiated by the office of the public protector.

Public protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said the proceedings were a result of Mkhize repeatedly ignoring a subpoena to appear before the chapter nine institution on several occasions.

Mkhize had been summoned to appear as part of an investigation by the protector into allegations that the department had failed to implement recommendations from the clinical associate national task team in 2017.

A complaint had been laid against Mkhize by Sanele Ngcobo, a clinical associate and the general secretary of the Professional Association of Clinical Associates of South Africa, over his department’s failure to implement the recommendations of the task team.

Clinical associates assist doctors — particularly in rural hospitals at which qualified doctors are scarce — in providing care and assistance to hospitalised patients.

Segalwe said Mkhize had failed to honour appearances in February, March and April this year.

“He failed to present himself on all three occasions, with his office advising each time that he was unavailable,” Segalwe said.

Segalwe said any person who failed to appear before the protector or refused to answer questions was guilty of contempt and could be fined up to R40 000.

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said it was “critical” for state functionaries to understand that compliance with the body’s investigations was not optional.

The charge laid against Mkhize comes on top of a charge of corruption and racketeering laid against him by the Democratic Alliance on Thursday over revelations that his department paid R150-million to a company associated with his 2017 campaign manager, Tahera Mather.

Payments were allegedly made to Mkhize’s family by Digital Vibes, with the contract currently being probed by the Special Investigating Unit.

Speculation is rife that Mkhize, the public face of South Africa’s Covid-19 response, may resign in coming weeks.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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