In spite of the fact that he did not attend the meeting on Friday, the Health Minister, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, came under heavy criticism from the health portfolio committee as well as members of the opposition. Mkhize did not attend the portfolio committee meeting on health because, as he told the Members of Parliament, he had been advised by his legal team not to attend the meeting since the Special Investigations Unit was still investigating the issue of his involvement in the R150 million Digital Vibes saga.
Even though the health budget was approved by 202 votes to 120, many members of parliament expressed outrage at the way the minister had conducted himself in the way a tender was awarded to Digital Vibes, a company that is closely linked to two of his former associates. The Democratic Alliance member of parliament Ms. Siviwe Gwarube bemoaned the behaviour of the minister of health in particular and the ruling party, ANC, in general, saying that the problem was the fact that most of the members of parliament of the ruling party were more concerned with toeing the party line rather than the need to take care of the country and health workers. “We cannot support a budget that doesn’t prioritise our people and health workers who stitch the health system together,” Gwarube said.
Another MP who was also unhappy with Mkhize was the EFF’s Suzan Thembekwayo, who said that a lot of corruption had happened under Mkhize’s watch like the awarding of PPE tenders to companies that had no experience in the field at higher prices than normal, with substandard service and quality. She went on to state unequivocally that her party would not support a budget whose minister would not appear before the committee to answer questions from the members of parliament. “As an urgent response to your failures we unequivocally call on the minister of health Zweli Mkhize to step down,” she said.
To add to Mkhize’s woes, the opposition party, the DA, had opened a criminal case against him in Cape Town while the President, Cyril Ramaphosa has assured the nation that the case would not be swept under the carpet even though he has also said that he was waiting for the Special Investigation Unit to conclude their investigation.