Rorisang Kgosana
Premium Journalist
5 minute read
6 Aug 2021
5:55 pm

Zweli Mkhize – The rise, fall, and scandals along the way

Rorisang Kgosana

Former health minister Zweli Mkhize has had a long journey with the ANC and the health portfolio, and it wasn't always smooth sailing.

Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Jacques Nelles

When the former Health Minister resigned from the critical portfolio on 5 August, following allegations of his involvement in the Digital Vibes saga, he went from being a qualified doctor and respected leader, to yet another disgraced politician.

Mkhize stands accused, along with members of his family, of allegedly receiving kickbacks from his close associates in exchange for government contracts.

Long before Mkhize was at the frontline of the country’s response to Covid-19, he had a long history with medicine while holding some of the top positions within both the national and provincial ANC. Obtaining an MBCHB degree from the University of Natal in 1982, he worked at the Themba Hospital and started his own private practice in Pietermaritzburg in 1991.

He was also the province’s longest serving health MEC, holding the position in KwaZulu-Natal from 1994 to 2004.

Mkhize resigned as Health Minister on Thursday.

ALSO READ: Mkhize to file application for review of SIU’s Digital Vibes report

His life

Born in Pietermaritzburg on 2 February 1956, he obtained his degree in medicine at age 26 and in 1983, he completed an internship at McCord Hospital before working at Edendale Hospital in his hometown.

Shortly thereafter Mkhize was exiled to Swaziland, due to apartheid and eventually settled in Zimbabwe before returning to South Africa in 1991.

Upon his return, he opened a private practice in Pietermaritzburg and in the same year, he served as a member of the ANC’s national health secretariat with the task of developing the country’s health policy.

He also served as chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal from 2009 to 2017.

Political career

Zweli Mkhize was elected treasurer general of the ANC
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – DECEMBER 16, 2017: African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and treasurer Zweli Mkize holding hands in prayer during the 54th National Conference on December 16, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Jabu Khumalo)

From the start of democracy in 1994, Mkhize served as KwaZulu-Natal’s health MEC for a decade, making him the longest serving health MEC in the country.

In 2004, he was moved to the position of MEC for finance and economic development in the same province, while simultaneously chairing the ANC’s national education and health subcommittee.

Mkhize was elected chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal ANC in 2008 and subsequently the Premier of the province in May 2009. Mkhize was again re-elected as ANC chairperson in 2012.

He was appointed treasurer-general of the ANC at the party’s 53rd national conference in December 2012. He stepped down as Premier in 2013, citing the workload of both positions required him to spend more time on his duties as ANC treasurer-general.

Following the election of new ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile at the 2017 ANC national conference, Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Mkhize as the new minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, following the recall of Jacob Zuma in 2018.

Mkhize took the seat of health minister in May 2019 under the Ramaphosa administration.

Scandals, controversies and assassination plots

SIU Digital Vibes report
President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, who is on special leave. Picture: Jacques Nelles

1999

As ANC provincial deputy chair, Mkhize was in 1999 named as part of a group of politicians who were arrested by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) on charges of illegal possession of arms to murder. The ANC in the province called on the then safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi to ensure no other “third forces” were involved in the SIU investigation.

2001

As KZN health MEC, Mkhize allowed head of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research, Professor Salim Abdool-Karim, to provide antiretroviral treatment at a time when HIV treatment was against government policy.

KZN at the time had the highest number of HIV infections, with infants at a high risk of being infected.

The unauthorised trial took place at a time when former President Thabo Mbeki had denied the state permission to provide women with ARVs to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

2007

A plan to assassinate Mkhize was allegedly plotted by Sizwe Mkhize (no relation), who was later arrested in 2010. The assassin and four others were allegedly offered one million each to kill Mkhize, as part of a plot to destabilise KZN.

2008

Mkhize won a defamation case against the City Press for falsely publishing that a witness in a court had testified that Mkhize had promised him money for the assassination of UDM leader Sifiso Nkabinde.

2017

According to claims in the book titled ‘Khwezi’, authored by radio journalist Redi Tlhabi, Mkhize allegedly tried to persuade Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser, Fezekile ‘Khwezi’ Kuzwayo, to drop the charges against him.

ALSO READ: Zweli Mkhize, the dark horse in ANC presidential race

2018

It was revealed that when Mkhize was MEC of finance, he was allegedly involved in a loan scandal which also involved his wife Dr May Mashego in 2008. One of the loans disbursed while Mkhize headed various political offices was a three-year R10.9 million property lease between the province’s treasury and KZN businessman Protus Sokhela.

Payments of R1 million each were then made by Sokhela’s company to a business which Dr Mashego is the sole director. Mkhize however denied any wrongdoing.

2019

Mkhize’s name came up during the commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) as the corporation’s former CEO Dan Matjila accused Mkhize of requesting the PIC to fund the ANC.

Mkhize has vehemently denied this.

2021

The SIU has found Mkhize and his family benefited from a R150 million tender to Digital Vibes, a company owned by Mkhize’s close associate Tahera Mather. Mkhize is said to have played a major role in the awarding of the tender, with the SIU’s findings currently before the Special Tribunal.

ALSO READ: Digital Vibes: Over R1 million spent on hair salon, nail franchise for Mkhize’s family

Mkhize subsequently resigned as health minister on Thursday, stating he wanted to bring certainty and stability to the health portfolio.

He indicated, however, that he would be submitting an application to the High Court for a judicial review of the SIU report which implicated him.

rorisangk@citizen.co.za