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S.Africa presidency spokeswoman on leave amid PPE graft probe

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman has taken leave pending a probe into her husband’s alleged links to unlawful contracts for personal protective equipment, the presidency said Monday.

Khusela Diko, 40, has served as Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman since he took over the presidency from Jacob Zuma in March 2018. In December of that year she married the disputed AmaBhaca king, Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko.

Last week, the Sunday Independent reported claims that a multimillion-rand contract to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals was irregularly awarded to Royal Bhaca Projects, a company in which her husband is a director.

Two of South Africa’s biggest opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), called for investigations into all COVID-19 service contracts awarded by the Gauteng Department of Health.

The EFF condemned the “blatant conflict of interest which sees the kin of government officials profiting from a global pandemic.”

Diko and her husband have maintained their innocence, saying the money was never paid to his company and the contract was never finalised.

“It is of the utmost importance that the work of the Presidency and government as a whole is not undermined or adversely impacted by these allegations,” Diko said in the presidency statement, announcing her temporary leave.

South Africa, the worst virus affected country on the continent has so far reported 445,433 cases and 6,769 deaths.

Tyrone Seale was appointed to act as spokesperson to Ramaphosa in Diko’s absence.