South Africa replaces health minister following departure of Zweli Mkhize

Phaahla steps in as country looks to ramp up vaccination campaign, and as fourth wave concerns emerge.

On Thursday evening, the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa announced Joe Phaahla will replace the embattled Zweli Mkhize as the health minister. This comes several weeks after Mkhize was placed on special leave following corruption allegations. The news also come as the country is looking to intensify its vaccination campaign to reach the president’s target of 300,000 daily administrations, which is expected to be Phaahla’s first priority. The new health minister brings with extensive experience, having been in the deputy role since 2019. He’s also held several key positions including being the first MEC for health and social development in Limpopo. He steps into the role with his work cut out for him, as concerns also emerge about a potential fourth wave in the coming months.

While cases have broadly declined across the country following the imposition of stricter measures for much of the winter period, some provinces have seen their cases rise lately. The Western Cape has emerged as the latest epicentre, after overtaking Gauteng with new reported cases. Other coastal provinces such as KZN and the Eastern Cape have also seen their cases rise, albeit not at the same pace. According to the new minister, the country’s vaccine supplies have stabilised and an additional 20 million doses are expected by end of August. In addition, the minister highlighted that authorities were also considering bringing back the AstraZeneca vaccine into the country’s arsenal, after suspended its use earlier in the year following concerns about diminished efficacy at the time.