Ramaphosa announced this shortly after Mkhize held a media briefing during a visit to the Northern Cape. Mkhize told journalists he had discussed being placed on special leave by the president, adding that he was awaiting a response.
In a short statement, Ramaphosa said the special leave would enable the minister to attend to allegations and investigations concerning contracts between the department of health and service provider Digital Vibes.
“The Special Investigating Unit [SIU] is investigating this matter and the president awaits a report on the outcome of this probe,” Ramaphosa’s office said.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will serve as acting minister of health until further notice, the presidency said.
On Monday evening, the Mail & Guardian reported that the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) heard from Ramaphosa allies that Mkhize should take special leave.
The NWC held a meeting on Monday during which members were polarised on how the ANC should deal with the matter, according to two sources closely involved in the meeting.
The sources said that Ramaphosa’s allies — Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu and the president of the ANC veterans’ league, Snuki Zikalala — called for Mkhize to take special leave while the matter was still under investigation.
This was shot down by other NWC members, who argued that Mkhize was a senior leader in the ANC and that the matter should be dealt with by the president and the top six.
The M&G also reported that Mkhize is understood to be preparing to resign from office over the SIU probe into the irregular awarding of the R150-million Covid-19 communications tender to his long-term associates.
Mkhize denied that any talks of a resignation had taken place between him and the president.
Mkhize has been under fire over the contract awarded to Digital Vibes, the communications company associated with Tahera Mather, his political associate who ran the media component of his failed 2017 campaign to become ANC president.
The Daily Maverick’s investigative unit, Scorpio, has exposed a number of payments to or on behalf of Mkhize’s son, Dedani, by Digital Vibes, as well as repairs to a Johannesburg house owned by the minister’s trust.
On Monday, the ANC’s integrity committee chair, George Mashamba, said he had received a letter from Mkhize indicating that he would appear before it.
Mashamba said no date had been set yet for the meeting, adding that the commission had sent a letter welcoming Mkhize’s request for a meeting.