Pretoria - Department of Health director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi has been placed on precautionary suspension for his role in the Digital Vibes saga.
The ministry confirmed the suspension yesterday, saying Buthelezi would remain under suspension until he appeared before an internal disciplinary meeting.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Popo Maja said: “Dr Nicholas Crisp, deputy director-general responsible for National Health Insurance, will continue to act until the hearing process has been concluded.”
In June, then health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize was placed on special leave for his role in the Digital Vibes matter. Mkhize has resigned as minister and been replaced by Dr Joe Phaahla.
He was accused of allegedly putting pressure on departmental officials to award a controversial R150 million tender to Digital Vibes, a company owned by Tahera Mather and Naadhira Mitha, alleged to be friends of Mkhize and his family.
It is also alleged that the company, after being paid by the department for the tender, financed an electrical project at Mkhize’s home and bought a car for Mkhize’s son, Dedani Mkhize.
This was revealed by a Special Investigating Unit report, which read in part: “Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize is alleged to have pressured senior officials in the Health Department to appoint Digital Vibes, a company run by two close associates, to a communications contract on which they reportedly scored R150m.”
Before taking special leave, Mkhize conceded that the R150m contract was irregular. He claimed that he had not benefited from it personally and that he did not declare a conflict of interest because he believed there was none.
Attempts to reach Buthelezi yesterday were fruitless.
Opposition political parties have weighed in on Buthelezi’s suspension.
The DA’s Siviwe Gwarube said: “Transparency is needed on who has been implicated and what steps are being taken to hold them to account. Simply assuring the people of South Africa the matter is being dealt with is not good enough.
“We have seen many corruption scandals be swept under the carpet within the ANC government and this egregious theft will not be another one. The theft of public money must be dealt with publicly in order to ensure all those who have been found to have broken the law are held to account.”