The Department of Health remains committed to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to place Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on special leave, says director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi.
Mkhize was placed on leave on Tuesday amid a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into the irregular R150 million communication contract awarded to Digital Vibes, a company allegedly owned by his close associates.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will serve as acting minister of health until further notice.
Buthelezi said the health department noted the president’s decision to place Mkhize on special leave in order to attend to the allegations levelled against him.
He said as a department they were ready to work with Kubayi-Ngubane.
“It goes without saying that these are difficult times we find ourselves in. As director general, I wish to reassure the nation that we remain committed and capable of managing the Covid-19 pandemic; executing a ramped up vaccination programme and running the national programmes as we are led by the acting minister of health, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane,” Buthelezi said in a statement on Tuesday.
Buthelezi said the department would brief citizens this week on a number of developments concerning the country’s vaccination programme.
The country has been vaccinating people 60 years and older using the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine while it waits for the green light from US regulators before it can start administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“Our spirits were lifted today [Tuesday] when we learnt that we have officially vaccinated over 1 million senior citizens aged 60 years and above under phase two.
“We must convey our appreciation to the senior citizens who have and continue to come forward in their numbers to be vaccinated. We also thank all those who are responsible for the administration of the rollout for their grit and determination as we continue to ramp up the campaign,” Buthelezi said.
DA to report Mkhize to ethics committee
Meanwhile, the DA said it would lay a complaint with Parliament’s Ethics Committee about Mkhize for his role in the awarding of the multimillion-rand contract to Digital Vibes.
DA health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said this was due to reports that Mkhize personally signed off the submission that contained the contract to Digital Vibes.
She said Parliament’s portfolio committee on health failed to hold the minister to account when he did not arrive for a meeting with the committee last week, citing legal advice.
“The DA is of the view that Mkhize’s conduct may be in contravention of Section 5.2.2 of the code which states that a member may ‘not use his or her influence as a public representative in his or her dealings with an organ of state in such a manner as to improperly advantage the direct personal or private financial or business interests of such member or any immediate family of that member or any business partner of that member or the immediate family of that member’.
“In addition, section 5.2.7 states that a member may ‘not lobby for any remuneration or receive any reward, benefit or gift for that member or for the immediate family of that member or the business partner of that member or immediate family of that member, for making such representation as a member on behalf of any person or body’,” Gwarube said in a statement.
Gwarube called on the ethics committee to investigate as a matter of urgency.
Last week, the DA laid criminal complaints in Cape Town against Mkhize and Buthelezi over the Digital Vibes contract.
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