Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

SIU: Zweli Mkhize and son benefited from Digital Vibes’ undue gratification

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Jul 30, 2021

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Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize received almost R7 000 from the company owned by two of his associates that was paid more than R150 million by his department.

The R6 720 is part of the millions paid by Digital Vibes in what the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) believes were “funds directly or indirectly paid by Digital Vibes to various parties, constitute undue gratification or were for the purposes of money laundering or as proceeds of unlawful activities and derive from unlawful payments”.

Mkhize was placed on special leave by President Cyril Ramaphosa last month after news of the scandal became public.

His son Dedanimabhunu Mkhize also received nearly R4m from Digital Vibes.

Details of the payments are laid out in an affidavit filed in the Special Tribunal by SIU principal forensic investigator Rajendra Chunilall.

Mkhize, his son, associates Tahera Mather and his former assistant private secretary Naadhira Mitha as well as Digital Vibes director Radha Hariram, are listed among the 30 respondents in the matter.

Hariram has previously told police that she enlisted the services of Mather and Mitha due to the volume of work that was required in the company.

Chunilall, who is the lead investigator in the Digital Vibes probe, said Digital Vibes was paid more than R150m in the period between January 2020 and February this year after submitting 19 invoices.

The SIU wants the tribunal to declare unlawful, invalid and set aside Digital Vibes’ contract with the national department of health as it believes the amount of R150m received by the company was unlawfully received.

“To remedy the flagrant abuse of public resources that has occurred, the SIU seeks an order that it is just and equitable that this amount (minus the amount currently interdicted and subject to be forfeited …) must be repaid to the state by Digital Vibes and/or the individuals that are its controlling minds and/or participated in the fraudulent and unlawful scheme,” reads Chunilall’s affidavit.

Digital Vibes was appointed by the department to provide communication services on the National Health Insurance (NHI) and this was later extended or converted to include the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Chunilall.

The company’s initial NHI contract signed in November 2019 was valued at R144m.

On the eve of the national lockdown in March last year, Mather sent a quote to then acting health director-general Dr. Anban Pillay to approve an additional R36m deal for Digital Vibes to produce 20 million A5 pamphlets, four billboards near major airports, airtime voucher advertising and television slots over a period of two weeks.

Chunilall said no procurement process took place in relation to Covid-19-related communication services and there was no contractual basis for the payments.

”Digital Vibes received these payments on the basis of fraudulent misrepresentations made in its bid documents and the procurement process was fraudulently manipulated by officials of the national department of health in order to ensure the appointment of Digital Vibes,” he stated.

He added the evidence obtained thus far by the SIU, shows the national department of health received little or no value for money, in respect of the services provided to it.

”Instead, tens of millions of rands of the monies paid to Digital Vibes by the national department of health have been paid out to companies controlled by Mather and Mitha and to family members of Mather,” Chunilall explained in the affidavit.

He said some R90m out of the total of approximately R150m received by Digital Vibes appears to be suspicious expenditure bearing no possible relation to bona fide (in good faith) disbursements of the costs of provision of communication services to the national department of health.

Digital Vibes has not supplied invoices and supporting documentation for the payments it received despite being requested by the SIU.

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