DURBAN - FORMER Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has demanded answers from the authorities as to how his name was dragged into the investigation of the murder of senior Gauteng health official and corruption whistle-blower Babita Deokaran.
This was after one of the six accused of the murder revealed he was allegedly beaten and coerced by police into implicating Mkhize.
Mkhize said he was “shocked and saddened to learn” that his name has been dragged into the case.
Durban-born Deokaran was gunned down outside her Winchester Hills home in Johannesburg on August 23. She was a key whistle-blower in an investigation into multimillion-rand dodgy personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts in Gauteng.
The PPE scandal resulted in the suspension of Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku and former presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko.
“I have instructed my lawyers to write to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate to investigate the circumstances surrounding the extraction and acceptance into evidence of the reported ‘confession’, whose value could only have been to cause me political embarrassment,” Mkhize said.
He added that it should be remembered that these alleged procurement irregularities took place at a provincial level, far away from the national sphere of government where he was deployed as the national minister of Health.
“I would like to take this opportunity to assure Ms Deokaran’s family and all South Africans who are still reeling from the trauma of this callous crime that I have absolutely nothing to do with it, nor the alleged procurement irregularities which are believed to have driven it,” Mkhize said.
Media reports revealed that Phakamani Hadebe, 29, has distanced himself from a “false confession” in which he implicated Mkhize. He described the false confession as a “figment of his imagination” that came after hours of alleged torture following his arrest.
In his affidavit, Hadebe said that after he was arrested he was taken to Turffontein Racecourse where he was put in a secluded place where he was assaulted as he was speaking about someone who had been killed a few days prior in Mondeor, Johannesburg.
Hadebe alleged that he was told that a policeman would arrive the following day to take his confession, and he was allegedly warned that should he not co-operate, he would be harmed.
He further told the court that a senior ANC figure had not hired him to commit the offence, and he challenged the State to bring evidence to support this allegation.
“I challenge the State to produce CCTV footage of me visiting the mall and meeting Dr Mkhize," he said.
Hadebe and his co-accused, Zita Hadebe, Nhlangano Ndlovu, Sanele Mbele, Siphiwe Mazibuko and Phakanyiswa Dladla, made their bail applications at the Johannesburg Central Magistrate's Court. The six men face charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition and an additional charge of attempted murder relating to Deokaran’s domestic helper.
Deokaran was a witness in the Special Investigating Unit’s probe into more than R300 million worth of alleged PPE tender procurement irregularities.