South African citizens baying for Zweli Mkhize’s head to roll over the Digital Vibes saga have got what they asked for – but at what cost? President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday afternoon that the embattled Health Minister’s position will be filled temporarily by Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who is currently the subject of enormous discontent for her work as SA’s Tourism Minister. 

Mkhize has officially been placed on leave by President Ramaphosa, forcing the long-serving ANC stalwart to vacate his position in Cabinet on a temporary basis. The decision came after Mkhize was implicated in a suspicious R150 million government contract with Digital Vibes.

Who is Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane?

Kubayi-Ngubane has been around the Ministerial block over the past few years, with tenures at the helm of the Energy, Communications, and Science and Technology portfolios over the past five years alone. 

Kubayi-Ngubane was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 2009, given the position of Parliamentary Counsellor to the newly appointed Deputy President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe.

Subsequently, she served as a Whip for the Parliamentary Committees on Basic and Higher Education and Training, Private Members’ Legislative Proposals and Petitions, with a stint as acting Deputy Chief Whip of the ANC Caucus and as a member of the Standing Committee on Appropriations, the Rules Committee and the Programming Committee following suit. 

Former President Jacob Zuma appointed her as the Minister of Energy in 2017, with sceptics suggesting that the role bestowed on her by the corruption-accused Zuma had more to do with her sympathy to his alleged role in the controversial arms deal than it did with her capabilities to effectively advance the Department. 

Her time in charge of Energy portfolio lasted little more than six months, before she was shuffled to head the Communications department.

In February 2018, Ramaphosa announced his new cabinet, with Kubayi-Ngubane named as head of the Department of Science and Technology.

Following the May 2019 elections, Kubayi-Ngubane was appointed Minister of Tourism, succeeding Derek Hanekom.

Former controversies  

Despite having a wealth of experience in various spheres of the Ramaphosa administration, our new Health Minister’s time in charge of the aforementioned departments have hardly inspired widespread praise. 

Her most recent work as Minister of Tourism during the turbulent COVID-19 pandemic has drawn widespread condemnation from the hospitality industry, who were most recently enraged by the department’s decision to insist on race as a criteria for financial relief funding for those who found themselves in distress as a result of borders being closed. 

The R1.2 billion Tourism Equity Fund’s race requirements, with relief only disbursed to tourism businesses with more than 51% black ownership, were deemed justification for the mechanism’s suspension in April after a court challenge. 

While the ruling was welcomed in political spheres, the suspension of vital relief payments was another devastating blow to businesses in one of the sectors most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On top of this, Kubayi-Ngubane’s oversight on issues such as beach closures and apparent failures to support the industry were listed as justification for the Democratic Alliance (DA) handing the Tourism Minister an “F” grade for her lockdown performance. 

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Presh JM Reporter

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