Cape Town – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended Zweli Mkhize despite the former health minister being implicated in the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report into the Digital Vibes for failing to perform his duties.
South African investigators on Wednesday called for Mkhize to be punished and a senior official to face criminal charges over a $10 million Covid fund scandal.
The damning report from the SIU said Mkhize oversaw contracts through Digital Vibes, a front company run by his former spokesperson and personal assistant.
Using money meant to educate the public about how to stay safe during the pandemic, his son Dedani Mkhize bought a Land Cruiser and withdrew “signficant amounts of cash”, the report said.
The SIU said the health ministry’s former director-general Anton Pillay should be criminally charged with financial misconduct.
The current director general Sandile Buthelezi was suspended over the weekend.
Investigators also urged Ramaphosa to take “executive action” against Mkhize, who resigned in August, as well as six other officials. The agency said it would issue more detailed recommendations about these measures later.
But following the release of the SIU report on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said it should be recognised that Mkhize “served the country well”.
“Digital Vibes has happened. A number of actions have flown out of that. The minister has resigned. If you did find fault with me saying to minister Mkhize we thank him for his work, I would like you to be a little considerate because as much as he is implicated in the report, he has served the nation well. I think as much as we want to be gung-ho and send people to the gallows and all that, we do need to also recognise some of the things that they have done.
“Minister Mkhize has served the nation well… I think many people remember how he really served the nation at the beginning of the pandemi. He was the sole voice of the pandemic and we were able to navigate away from the pandemic because of his experience…,” Ramaphosa said during a media briefing at Luthuli House on Wednesday evening.
The SIU report did not delve into details of how the money was spent. Local media have reported that one Digital Vibes official took her family on a months-long trip to Turkey during South Africa’s second coronavirus wave.
Other reports have highlighted spending sprees on luxury goods.
Picture: Getty Images
Compiled by Betha Madhomu
Aditional reporting by AFP