Please find soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP attached.
The DA has, for the past few weeks, called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize over his alleged involvement in the awarding of a dodgy multi-million-rand contract to Digital Vibes.
While the DA can accept that the removal of Minister Mkhize from office under the ‘special leave’ granted by the President, will aid the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) in conducting an investigation free from political influence, it is still a cop-out.
Now that an acting minister has been appointed, it is critical that South Africa is not punished for the transgressions of a Minister who has reportedly stuck their hands in the national cookie jar of public funds for personal benefit. Minister Kubayi-Ngubane needs to hit the ground running. These are the 5 key priorities that she would need to focus on:
- Accelerate the vaccine rollout programme: South Africa’s vaccine rollout plan has been criminally slow and marred with both avoidable and unavoidable delays. The acting Minister must ensure that the vaccines that in the country are dispersed as quickly as possible to the remaining frontline workers and older persons over 60 years of age. It is an absolute indictment that in the middle of June – exactly 15 months after this pandemic hit South Africa- thousands of healthcare workers remain vulnerable to the 3rd of COVID19 infections.
- Clarity from the national regulator on the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccines in the country: The DA has noted reports by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the unsuitability of 60 million J&J vaccines. It is critical that the assessment by SAHPRA is conducted and concluded soon. This is important for the rollout of the vaccine and also the public trust in the vaccination process. Should these vaccines found to not be suitable for use, the President must immediately make a pronouncement on how the target of vaccinating 40 million South Africans by year end will be met.
- Resolution of the EVDS system glitches for smooth registration and rollout of the vaccine: the online appointment system has been fraught with challenges, many of which are simply basic. People are not receiving their texts confirming appointments and yet many vaccine sites are ready for the administering of the jab. It is absolutely crucial that this is resolved and as many people over the age of 60 and healthcare workers are prioritized. This is especially important considering that South Africa is now firmly in the 3rd wave and many more people vulnerable to this virus need to be prioritized.
- Ensuring the SIU investigation is inhibited: The Acting Minister is now in an unenviable position of inheriting a department that is the subject of an investigation involving hundreds of millions of rands. She will need to make sure that the work of the SIU in so far as it concerns the department is done without any undue influence so that the institution can make credible findings in this regard. The scapegoating of officials is a typical and tired strategy used to shield politicians from accountability which cannot be allowed.
- A united departmental senior management team: The acting minister is walking into a hornet’s nest. The senior management team in the department of health has been rocked by a huge scandal which could destabilize the important work that needs to be done. Her immediate priority should be to ensure continuity alongside with the deputy minister. Once again, South Africans cannot be made to suffer shoddy services in the middle of a global pandemic.
President Ramaphosa has once again proven that his stance of corruption is merely empty words and nothing more. He is only prepared to act decisively once the investigation of the SIU is completed. This means that the country is subjected to an acting minister in the middle of a global pandemic and in the midst of a 3rd wave. This means that both the President and Minister Kubayi- Ngubane must get their priorities straight and get the basics right. When the portfolio committee of health meets with the acting minister this coming week, the DA will ensure that this set of priorities is submitted to her in order to save lives and livelihoods.
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