JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s health minister was placed on special leave on Tuesday due to a corruption scandal involving an irregular government contract where $11 million was paid to a company linked to two people who worked for him.
Zweli Mkhize has spearheaded the response to COVID-19 in South Africa, which has the highest number of cases and deaths in Africa.
This decision was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a statement from his office. He said Mkhize had been placed on special leave from his job “to deal with allegations and investigations” around the irregular contract.
South Africa’s tourism minister would step in as acting health minister, the president said. South Africa’s Special Investigations Unit is still investigating the contract and has not released a report, although Mkhize’s own health department has already found the contract to be “irregular”.
Mkhize denied personally benefiting from the contract and asserted that he was not involved in awarding it.
The former personal assistant and former spokeswoman for Mkhize is now linked to the company Digital Vibes, which received the money to organize press briefings for the minister during the coronavirus pandemic.
There are new allegations that Mkhize’s son personally benefited from the contract.
It is one of multiple corruption scandals that have marred the viral response of the South African government.