A medic introduces the procedure of COVID-19 testing to citizens in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 8, 2020. The number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa has risen steadily over the past fews days amid massive community testing in a 21-day national lockdown. The country reported a total of 1,749 cases as of Tuesday, an increase of over 60 from Monday's announcement, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said. (Photo by Shiraaz/Xinhua)
A medic introduces the procedure of COVID-19 testing to citizens in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 8, 2020. The number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa has risen steadily over the past fews days amid massive community testing in a 21-day national lockdown. The country reported a total of 1,749 cases as of Tuesday, an increase of over 60 from Monday's announcement, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said. (Photo by Shiraaz/Xinhua)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday decided to put Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on special leave amid accusations of corruption concerning COVID-19-related contracts.

The health ministry previously awarded a contract worth 150 million South African rand ($11 million) to the communications firm Digital Vibes, allegedly headed by Mkhize’s close acquaintance. News24 portal revealed that the company bought a car for the minister’s son and paid for the renovations in the house owned by the Mkhize family.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa has today, Tuesday, 08 June 2021 placed Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize on special leave,” the president’s office said in a statement.

According to the statement, during this period the minister will assist with the investigations into the placement of government contracts with a service provider, Digital Vibes.

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane was appointed an interim health minister.

South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has launched a probe into the case, which is the latest among over 4,000 similar cases of suspicious placement of coronavirus-linked contracts since the start of the pandemic. As of June, a total of 63 government officials have been handed over for prosecution and 87 companies are on the way to being blacklisted over COVID-19-related corruption charges.

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