Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has responded to criticism that she is not qualified to be leading South Africa’s Covid-19 battle, telling her critics to allow her work to speak for her.
President Cyril Ramaphosa surprised many South Africans earlier this month when he announced that Kubayi-Ngubane, the country’s tourism minister, would take over from Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize while he went on special leave.
Mkhize has been implicated in the awarding of a dodgy multimillion-rand communications tender by the health department to Digital Vibes, a company run by his close associates.
There were questions about why Ramaphosa chose Kubayi-Ngubane as acting health minister over her more qualified and experienced colleagues like Deputy Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla.
In an interview with Newzroom Afrika on Saturday, Kubayi-Ngubane said she did not take the criticism personally.
“Over time as government people feel that we have not taken the right decisions. The trust between the public and us has gone down, there is a trust deficit in the public. And that’s what has led to many people questioning decisions taken by the government.
“So, I do take it in that context, I’ve never taken it personally,” she said.
The minister said when she was appointed the minister of science and technology back in 2018, there were also similar criticisms levelled against her.
“So, you do sort of tend to say, ‘let my work speak for me’. And that’s my attitude towards such things.
“There’s a reason why the president asked me specifically to do the work and for that, I need to continue to be who I am and doing what my colleagues in Cabinet and the president know me to do.”
‘I can’t answer for the president’
Asked why she thought Ramaphaso chose her to lead the health ministry amid the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in SA, Kubayi-Ngubane said she was not sure why but it could be her experience as a Cabinet minister.
“I think one of the things I can say is that I do pay attention to detail and I read a lot. Perhaps with the experience of having moved from different portfolios, I know where to touch so that we can make an immediate impact,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
She added: “I can’t answer for the president but I can answer for myself and say, with having moved portfolios, it sort of gave me exposure and experience of different portfolios.
“When I move to a different portfolio I know exactly which questions to ask, what to look for and how to prioritise in terms of the immediate things to be done.”
Kubayi-Ngubane said as soon as she was appointed to the health ministry, she received a handover from Mkhize and the department’s director-general, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, on her key priorities.
She added that her advantage for the job is that she was already part of the National Coronavirus Command Council.
She said, however, she was not a member of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Covid-19 Vaccines.
“Quite a number of committees that have to deal with Covid-19 I’ve been part of since the beginning of the pandemic in March last year.
“Being a minister of a sector that has been hard-hit [tourism], one had to learn a lot about the pandemic and that comes quite handy for me in terms of this role of acting minister of health,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.