President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday evening said that he would await the outcome of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into the Digital Vibes contract before deciding Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s fate, but insisted it would not be swept under the carpet.
“This matter is on my desk,” Ramaphosa replied, when he was repeatedly pressed on the scandal during an engagement with journalists at Parliament.
“Given what has been reported, the minister and all that, shouldn’t he take a leave of absence, be suspended? These are matters that obviously have to be looked at,” he added. “I have said I would like this process to ensue and would like people to trust and believe that I am handling this matter, and will handle it to finality, because it is concerning.”
Ramaphosa remarked that he has “tended to be careful” when dealing with allegations of corruption.
He reiterated that he had spoken to Mkhize, and added: “There is full co-operation from the minister.”
But Ramaphosa conceded that he did not know about the alleged payment of R7 000 for renovations at a property in Bryanston owned by a Mkhize trust, or generous donations to the minister’s son from those involved in Digital Vibes until this was reported in the Daily Maverick.
“It is concerning and I raised it frontally because of its importance and … this matter is not going to be swept under the carpet, it will be dealt with as it should in terms of our principles; in terms of our value system that we want to inculcate and imbed in our governance processes,” the president said.
“So rest assured that this matter is going to be handled in a way that will give credence to our adherence to the principle of good governance — ethical leadership as well. That is a must and it is going to happen.”
The SIU on Wednesday told parliament’s watchdog standing committee on public accounts that its investigation should be completed by the end of June.
Mkhize has denied that he benefited from the company’s R150-million communications’ contract with the health department.
The affair poses a particular headache for Ramaphosa, who in April admitted at the Zondo commission that the abuse of state funding spent on health contracts linked to the Covid-19 pandemic had been a painful reckoning for the governing party and the government.