By Sihle Mavuso | IOL |
A few days before the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) hands over its report to President Cyril Ramaphosa on the Digital Vibes tender, there are reports that Dr Zweli Mkhize, the health minister who is currently on special leave, put pressure on department officials to issue it.
A weekend newspaper reported that Mkhize allegedly “pressured” departmental officials to award the controversial R150 million tender to the company owned by Taheera Mather and Naadhira Mitha, who are alleged to be friends of Mkhize and his family.
Further, it has been repeatedly alleged that Digital Vibes, upon being paid for the controversial tender by the department, bankrolled an electrical project at Mkhize’s home in Johannesburg and bought a vehicle for Dedani, Mkhize’s son.
As Mkhize awaits the finalisation of the probe, the Sunday Times newspaper reported that he would be implicated in the SIU report.
“Health Minister Zweli Mkhize is alleged to have pressured senior officials in the health department to appoint Digital Vibes, a company run by two close associates, to a communications contract on which they reportedly scored R150m.
“The Sunday Times has learnt that, in their report to be handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday, Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigators will allege that Mkhize ’pressured’ officials in his department to appoint the company when it was first contracted to the department in 2019 to work on communications for the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme,” the paper reported.
Mkhize did not respond to calls and WhatsApp messages when Independent Media asked him whether, in the wake of this new information placing him at the centre of the scandal, he would consider resigning.
Prior to taking special leave, Mkhize conceded that the R150m contract was irregular. He claimed that he had not benefited from it personally and that he did not declare a conflict of interest because he believed there was none.
As the SIU continues to probe the tender, it obtained an order on Wednesday last week to freeze R22m held in the accounts of the company. The SIU said the move was part of action taken against those responsible for and implicated in corruption, maladministration and malpractice related to the awarding of R150m tender to Digital Vibes in November 2019, and extended last year to include work related to communications on Covid-19.
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the Special Tribunal order prohibits Digital Vibes, Tahera Mather, Naadhira Mitha, Suhaila Mather, Suhaila Mather Consulting (Pty) Ltd, Amods Attorneys, WT Graphics and Designs (Pty) Ltd, and Strategeewhiz (Pty) Ltd from dealing with the funds held in the relevant bank and investment accounts in any manner.
Kganyago added that the order was issued based on the information presented by the SIU investigating team and certain information sourced and assisted by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), between June 4 and 14, 2021.
After being approached by the SIU with evidence, the FIC issued intervention directions under Section 34 of the FIC Act to place a hold on approximately R22m of funds derived from the monies paid to Digital Vibes by the department, for a period of 10 working days.