Acting presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale said Ramaphosa had granted Mkhize special leave to enable the minister to attend to the probe into his alleged role in the awarding of an R150 million (about US$ 10.7 million) communications contract to Digital Vibes, a company headed by his former personal assistant Tahera Mather and former secretary Naadhira Mitha.
“This period of special leave will enable the minister to attend to allegations and investigations concerning contracts between the Department of Health and a service provider, Digital Vibes,” Seale said in a statement on Tuesday.
He said Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane would serve as acting health minister until further notice.
Mkhize has come under pressure to step down in recent months after news broke out that his ministry allegedly awarded a contract to Digital Vibes in 2019 for work on the National Health Insurance and then extended it to include work on the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The irregularities were first raised by the auditor-general in December 2020, prompting the Ministry of Health to commission an investigation that found the contract had been irregularly awarded.
The contract is currently being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit, which is expected to finalise its report by the end of June.
Among other allegations against Mkhize are that Digital Vibes paid for a car registered in the minister’s son’s name and paid maintenance bills at a house owned by his family trust.