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Union calls for ‘more suitable’ candidate to fill health minister’s role

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize
Former Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize/ GCIS

By Kaya 959 News

Healthcare union, Hospersa, has called for a more suitable candidate to fill the shoes of Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa, placed Mkhize on special leave following allegations levelled against him that his close associates benefited from a R150 million contract awarded by the Department of Health.

According to reports, the company, Digital Vibes, that was contracted to perform the DoH’s communication activities is run by the minister’s former personal assistant.

The company reportedly invoiced the DoH millions of Rands for tasks that should have been performed by the department’s employees.

Minister Mkhize has recently made the admission that the awarded contract is irregular but claims he has not personally benefited.

Tourism Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, was appointed in Mkhize’s place.

Someone with medical background needed

“The position needs someone with a medical background especially as the country has entered the third wave. We have called on the President to review the appointment of the Minister of Tourism and for the Special Investigative Unit to conclude their investigations as speedily as possible for law enforcement agencies to bring all implicated individuals to book,” Hospersa’s General Secretary, Noel Desfontaines, said.

He said Mkhize leaves this void in the department while the country struggles to increase the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations and is in the middle of a third wave of the pandemic.

Hospersa has raised concerns over these developments and worries that the current challenges may hamper the country’s fight against the pandemic.

“Hospersa has noted the special leave granted to the Minister of Health. He has been under immense pressure lately following revelations of the Digital Vibes contract.  The special leave should have been taken earlier to ease uncertainties in the country’s continued fight against the Covid-19 pandemic” Desfontaines said.

Healthcare system under pressure

He said the union was shocked by the appointment of the Minister of Tourism who has no medical background.

“The country’s health care system is currently under a lot of pressure due to a slow vaccination process and the third wave.  Many provincial departments are battling to cope with the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases with the Gauteng province having the added pressure caused by the temporary closure of Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital,” Desfontaines said.

He said he was of the view that the department needed a minister with a medical background now more than ever.

“Aside from the Covid-19 pandemic, there is also ongoing work around the National Health Insurance which could be delayed even further due to this appointment,” he said.

READ: Public schools in Gauteng report over 1000 COVID-19 positive cases

Hospersa questioned why the department’s Deputy Minister could not take over the reins in the meantime.

He said since the South African Constitution does not allow for Deputy Ministers to act in the position of Ministers, maybe the country should have an honest conversation around the need of having Deputy Ministers.

“Our government pleads poverty and continues to announce a three year increase freeze for public servants, including health workers, yet wastes millions of Rands on salaries for Deputy Ministers who cannot step into Ministers’ shoes when needed the most,” he said.

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