/ 3 June 2021

Editorial: Mkhize cannot lead us

Editorial: The Margin For Error Is Gone
EDITORIAL: The margin for error is gone (Photo Archive)

The National Health Insurance (NHI) initiative in South Africa has not only been a contentious issue because medical aids might not make the big bucks they are used to, or because state budgets will not be able to afford it, but also due to the high levels of corruption in the governing party. 

MPs are still hearing from the public on the issue, and the legislation is before the national assembly. Though it may seem far off, the plan to reform healthcare financing in South Africa is coming. The very last person at the helm of such a project should be someone who is accused of corruption to the tune of millions of rands, where his friends and family have seemingly benefited from the state — during a pandemic. 

The person who decides where billions in healthcare funding is invested and prioritised has to be beyond reproach.

Ensuring access to good healthcare is one of the important services that the state must provide.

That man cannot be our current minister of health.

Yet, that same man, Dr Zweli Mkhize, is accused of using his position to sign off tenders for a company his “comrades” run. 

That company, Digital Vibes, allegedly dished out that money to associates and family members of the minister. The Special Investigating Unit has said it is hot on the heels of those who benefited. 

But this is not Mkhize’s first alleged ride on the corruption gravy train. 

In 2006, when he was the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for finance and economic development, his wife, May, was granted a R11.7-million loan to buy a farm and R1.3-million for working capital by the state-run Ithala Development Finance Corporation, which fell under his ministry.

At the time, Mkhize described his wife as a “professional and a businesswoman in her own right [who] has dealings with other financial institutions” and defended the granting of the loan.

No action was taken against Mkhize at the time. 

More recently, former ANC MP and business person Sizani Dlamini-Dubazana made allegations in an affidavit that Mkhize had been involved in diverting R3.4-million from Ithala for former president Jacob Zuma’s legal fees in 2005.

The circumstances around the loan — which has not been repaid and the balance of which now stands at R7-million — were ventilated at the Zondo commission last November.

Maybe it is a good thing that the NHI process has been ongoing for over two decades. It has given us time to see the ruling party and the person who might want to run this system for what they are. 

You know what they are. 

For now, though, we can agree that Mkhize is not the person to run the NHI or any other entity in the state where public funds are involved.