Editorial: Pull the trigger, Mr President and save SA

Johannesburg – With President Cyril Ramaphosa close by his side, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has been a pillar of strength and hope to the millions of South Africans since the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic early last year.

As the arrival of the virus sparked immediate and widespread panic across the country, Mkhize maintained a calm demeanour, acted methodically as he assembled a team of medical experts to provide guidance to the government on how to deal with the outbreak.

Mkhize rapidly became a respected political figure, becoming a constant feature on our television screens – alongside Professor Abdool Karim – providing incredible measures the country needed to take to contain the spread of Covid-19.

It was no wonder that as his political star began to rise, many political observers even began to punt him as a future presidential material; a man the country can put its faith and trust in during times of crisis.

It was because of his impeccable characteristics such as integrity, responsibility, influence and good communication, vision and accountability as well as truthfulness and trust that most people began to see a future (president) in Mkhize.

It is no secret that Mkhize has been (and may still be) harbouring those presidential ambitions, having previously tried his luck at the ANC’s 2017 Nasrec elective conference, which instead propelled Ramaphosa to the party’s and country’s most powerful positions. However, it has now become abundantly clear that the R150-million tender scandal, which involves his close associates and family members, has put paid to his chances of one day becoming South Africa’s president.

It is no longer a matter of whether but it has now become a question of when he will step down as a cabinet minister if Ramaphosa’s drive against corruption is to be taken beyond the selfish factional interests of the ANC.

Covid-19 cookie jar. Cartoon Yalo

The fight against corruption must be taken for the greater good of society as evidence has time and again shown at the Zondo Commission that corruption is South Africa’s “other pandemic”.

For all intents and purposes, Mkhize has broken public trust. He is refusing to accept liability and take accountability for the shameful communications tender award scandal. Mkhize appears to be no longer able to fulfil his official duties.

On Friday, he excused himself from a parliamentary committee meeting because his legal advisers had advised him against it.

Mkhize is in other words trying to say that he does not want to incriminate himself, an excuse often cited by many corruption-accused politicians and their acolytes.

Ramaphosa has been dithering as public outrage over the scandal intensifies.

The trust deficit continues to grow as Ramaphosa weighs his options because of fear of widening gaps between ANC warring factions.

It is a political risk he needs to tackle head on.

Mkhize must himself be brave and take the bold decision of stepping aside to allow investigations to reach finality.

Whatever the outcome of those investigations, Mkhize has muddied his promising political career and must fall on his sword for the sake of good governance.

On Monday, it emerged that Health Minister Zweli Mkhize will appear before the ANC integrity commission this week.

Commission chairperson, George Mashamba has confirmed that Mkhize wants to discuss the multi-million-rand Digital Vibes tender scandal.

Mashamba says Mkhize will have to answer about the alleged benefits to his family from the R150-million.

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