Digital Vibes contract: Politicians react to Zweli Mkhize’s ousting

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Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, stepping aside from office on 8 June 2021, while the Digital Vibes tender scandal is being probed, has been welcomed.

However, politicians and trade unions have raised a myriad of questions, one being why deputy ministers cannot deputise while investigations continue? Well, the reason is that deputy ministers are not considered a part of the cabinet, instead, they are officials of the national departments they represent.

Mkhize, was recently placed on special leave and Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane was confirmed as his replacement.

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“I think that the president should have long shown him [Zweli Mkhize] the door. The problem with the president is that most of his ministers are in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons and there is no action from him. What are these deputy ministers for? We have 2-3 in some of the departments, executives way above 60 people. We need to bring the numbers down from where we started,” said former general secretary of Cosatu, Zwelinzima Vavi, during a media interview.

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A Morning Live trending topic discussion on 9 June, suggested that the deputy minister of health would be most knowledgeable of the department’s operations and the best candidate to step into Zweli Mkhize’s shoes.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) raised this question when reacting to news of Mkhize’s decision to step aside while corruption allegations unfold. Mkhize, on Tuesday, apologised to the nation for the corruption scandal that had arisen. However, he reiterated that he did not benefit financially from the Digital Vibes tender award.

The minister is accused of benefiting from a R150 million tender awarded to communications company Digital Vibes. The National Department of Health procured their services for coordinating media briefings pertaining to COVID-19 and the National Health Insurance.

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Political parties reacted positively to Mkhize vacating his office amidst investigations with varying views on what should happen.


Wouter Wessels from the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) questioned the exorbitant amount spent (R150 million) for outsourced communication services. The party wanted the nature of the Digital Vibes contract to be investigated.

The FF Plus wanted Mkhize to explain his actions before the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee. Wessels added that people were employed in the health department to handle this type of work and did not see the need for this tender.

The Democratic Alliance’s Siviwe Gwarube said it was deeply unfortunate that an individual leading the country’s COVID-19 response had to step aside at this point in time. She emphasized the need for public office bearers to be investigated in the event of misconduct and be held accountable.

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COPE’s stance on the matter was one of rejection. Party spokesperson, Dennis Bloem, said they wanted the president to fire Mkhize.

“The corruption allegations against him are very serious. Corruption in this country will never stop when these people are being treated with kid gloves. We cannot trust him anymore with the fight against COVID-19,” he told the SABC.

The IFP was unhappy with Tourism Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane’s appointment, saying that she has no medical or scientific knowledge or qualifications.

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