The fall from grace of Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has possible repercussions which go far beyond the realm of mere corruption and accountability.
This is the man, journalist Gareth van Onselen reminded us this week, who said of Jacob Zuma in 2009, that “Zuma may turn out to be one of the finest presidents this country has had”.
In the same opinion piece he hailed Zuma as “an honest and caring person”.
Why is that important now, as Mkhize prepares either to get fired or resign his position in the wake of the Digital Vibes tender scandal?
It’s because an angry Mkhize wouldn’t need much pushing or persuasion to throw his lot back in with the Zuma faction in the ANC.
The Sunday Times yesterday quoted sources close to the minister as telling comrades in a private meeting at his home in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), that he believed the Digital Vibes investigation undertaken by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) was nothing more than a ploy to remove him as a political challenger to President Cyril Ramaphosa at next year’s ANC elective conference.
While it is certainly true that, being the knight in shining armour battling Covid-19 boosted Mkhize’s presence and, hence, his potential to be Number One, one day, it is difficult to find sympathy in the face of his attitude (as conveyed to his comrades) that he is the victim.
Still, if he is so angry he does “defect”, that move will strengthen the power of not only the Zuma faction, but also of KZN in the ANC hierarchy.
Although the biggest province, it has been divided in support for Ramaphosa and Zuma… although many Zuma acolytes have given notice they will be joining the fightback against Ramaphosa by securing key branch positions in KZN.
The next few weeks will be interesting indeed.