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When Dr Zweli Mkhize was forced to step aside from his role as minister of health, there were allegations that President Cyril Ramaphosa had already embarked on his campaign to be re-elected for a second term as president of the ruling party.
It was alleged that the Digital Vibes corruption allegations against Mkhize were a political ploy to get rid of him.
Mkhize, whom events had catapulted into a position not too far from that of the presidency in terms of power, did not do much to quash the rumours that he was a victim of the CR22 re-election machinery.
It would be sad if it were true that the president sacrificed his most diligent soldier against Covid at the altar of political power, but evidence from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) suggests that Mkhize’s role in the Digital Vibes matter made it easy for his alleged opponents to get rid of him.
‘If Mkhize loves the ANC, he should resign instead of waiting to be fired’
Whether Mkhize fell on his own sword or was pushed out of active duty into special leave is now immaterial.
The president needs to take the decisiveness of which he is accused in the Mkhize matter, apply it to the rest of his Cabinet and get rid of the ministers who seem lost or are deliberately acting against the president’s wishes.
The recent events that left so much economic devastation in KZN and parts of Gauteng would never have been as bad as they were if some ministers were doing their jobs.
Those that were caught napping in the security cluster need to be shuffled out of Cabinet because they are either incompetent, or they deliberately sat back and watched events unfold and chose to do nothing, even though they had information about things long before they happened.
It doesn’t help that some of the ministers went on to contradict the president publicly about whether the riots were part of an insurrection or not.
That was just clumsy and reeks of insubordination, in full view of the public. This past week, national commissioner of police Khehla Sithole came out and declared in public that the national police service was in very bad shape.
He listed all the reasons why the police failed to react effectively during the looting spree. His chosen words were that the police were “handicapped and powerless,” revealing that they have up to nine helicopters that are grounded and police armoured vehicles that were out of service following years of cuts to the police budget.
Mkhize’s son admits to receiving money from Digital Vibes ‘owner’
While it is refreshing to hear Police Minister Bheki Cele talk candidly about how an R11 billion budget cut has handicapped the police over the years, it is quiet disheartening that at a time when the nation needs to hear how the state will be ready if things were to go pear-shaped again, what Cele and police commissioner choose to focus on is what can’t be done.
The SIU report into Digital Vibes has given the president an opening that should make things somewhat easy for him: he has to let Mkhize go and, while he is at it, he needs to fix his security cluster.
It cannot be that the president believes that an insurrection was under way just a month ago, but the ministers of defence, police and intelligence had not got even a whiff of it before it started.
If that is true, then the country is in more trouble than just being presided over by a hesitant and generally indecisive leader. It suggests the rest of his Cabinet simply folded their arms and watched an insurrection unfold.
LOCAL ELECTIONS 2021