Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize has refuted reports that he blames President Cyril Ramaphosa for the Digital Vibes investigation, which has plagued him since Daily Maverick broke the story earlier in the year.
At the weekend, it was reported by the Sunday Times that Mkhize told comrades in a private meeting at his home in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), that he believed the Digital Vibes probe by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was a ploy to remove him as a political challenger to Ramaphosa at next year’s ANC elective conference.
“The minister [Mkhize] wishes to clarify that he does not believe that this investigation has anything to do with ANC politics,” the Department of Health said in a statement on Monday.
The department said it was “disingenuous” to claim that the SIU investigation was linked to ANC politics, because the SIU’s investigation came after the department had already initiated its own probe into the matter.
The department added that it was Mkhize who had briefed the Ramaphosa about the investigation, before the SIU announced it would be looking into “matters of Covid-19 contracts malfeasance”.
“The minister remains committed to cooperating with the investigation process as it proceeds,” the department said.
Meanwhile, earlier on Monday the department denied that any officials had been suspended over the Digitals Vibes tender saga.
Among others, Dr Anban Pillay – the department’s deputy director-general for health regulations and compliance management, and Popo Maja – chief director for communications and stakeholder management – were allegedly suspended after a report implicated them in irregularities in the awarding of the R150 million communications tender to Mkhize’s associates – Digital Vibes, Mkhize’s former aide Tahera Mather, and his former personal assistant Naadhira Mitha.
On Sunday, health department Director-General Sandile Buthelezi denied the suspensions and said Mkhize didn’t get involved in the department’s administrative functions.
Additional reporting by News24 Wire