Minister’s friends on another level
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IF, as is speculated, Zweli Mkhize harbours presidential ambitions, he must first come clean on the matter of the R150 million contract his department entered into with Digital Vibes.
Dodging briefings where the matter is to be discussed, as happened yesterday, is not the way to go about it.
Mkhize had acquired the reputation of being one of “the good guys”, his reputation bolstered by his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, his reputation cannot be used to excuse the cynical waste of precious state funds as details of the Digital Vibes contract are aired.
While millions of South Africans queue to receive paltry R350 grants, the company – run by Tahera Mather and Naadhira Mitha, Mkhize's close associates – received R2.7m for arranging a press conference for him with the SABC, a task which could easily be performed by his communications staff at no extra cost to the taxpayer other than their regular salaries.
It has also emerged that the company paid contractors for work done at a home once owned by Mkhize's family, and paid for a bakkie in use on his son's farm and R300 000 to a company run by his son.
For his part, President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised that the matter “will not be swept under the carpet” and would be dealt with.
This is another opportunity for him to show that his administration’s anti-corruption stance is not just rhetoric.
As is typical of all ministers caught in similar situations, Mkhize has, of course, denied all knowledge of and involvement in awarding the contract – “Let me categorically state that I have not personally benefited from this contract”.
However, this one literally hits too close to home – and farm – for him to stick to his denials.
Mkhize must explain why Digital Vibes would, as his wife has said, pay for maintenance to their private home without being prompted, and supposedly without the family's knowledge.
We could all do with such friends, but not all of us are ministers.