Mabuza on Mkhize R82m health tender allegations: 'The comment of the president is my comment'

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 Deputy President David Mabuza. (Photo by Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)
Deputy President David Mabuza. (Photo by Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)
  • David Mabuza refused to comment on allegations regarding Zweli Mkhize and a dodgy Covid-19 contract.
  • He said his comment is the same as President Cyril Ramaphosa's.
  • Mkhize earlier welcomed an SIU investigation into the allegations.

Deputy President David Mabuza didn't want to express himself with regard to allegations that people linked to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize benefitted from a R82 million Covid-19 communications tender.

Mabuza on Wednesday explained to the National Assembly that the government took measures to prevent corruption in its Covid-19 vaccination programme.

DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis referred to the Daily Maverick's recent report that an obscure communications company, Digital Vibes, with Mkhize's former personal spokesperson and family friend, Tahera Mather, and his former private secretary, Naadhira Mitha, as paid consultants, secured an irregular communications contract from the Department of Health.

The contract, for work related to the pandemicwas worth R82 million.

On Wednesday, Daily Maverick reported further on the matter, revealing that two more people with ties to Mkhize - Yenzi Sokhela, a former employee at Mkhize's Ikusasa Le Afrika Foundation, and Welcome Mthethwa, the husband of former ANC staffer Makhosazana Mthethwa – joined Digital Vibes in 2020 after it was awarded the tender.

Mkhize, addressing the National Council of Provinces last month, said his director-general Sandile Buthelezi flagged the contract and suggested that an external investigator be appointed.

Mkhize has welcomed the Special Investigating Unit's (SIU) probe.

Ramaphosa, at an engagement with the SA National Editors' Forum last month, said he had discussed the matter with Mkhize.

The president said he was glad that Mkhize welcomed the SIU investigation.

READ | SIU to probe R82m health tender after Zweli Mkhize's associates allegedly linked to deal

Hill-Lewis said public support for the government's vaccine rollout plan was "critically undermined" by such revelations.

"Would you give the country and this House an assurance that you will take these allegations extremely seriously? Can you tell us what you are doing, as deputy president, to investigate it and give us the assurance that, if there is any truth to these allegations, the minister will be removed from office immediately?" Hill-Lewis asked.

"Remember, I'm deputy president, I'm working in the office of the president," responded Mabuza.

"Once a president responds on a matter, that is the response of the presidency. So, I'll elect not to comment on a matter on which the president has commented. Because the comment of the president is my comment," said Mabuza.

"That is passing the buck," grumbled Hill-Lewis - but Mabuza continued undisturbed.

He said Mkhize had spoken to the president, explained himself, and the SIU was "on the matter".

"So we leave it at that, up until this investigative unit comes out with a finding, then we'll take it from there. That is the response that was given by the president, I'm just repeating that response."

He then suggested that Hill-Lewis present any information he might have to the SIU.

"It can assist, because all of us must try and assist in this case."


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