R22 mn in Digital Vibes accounts frozen after SIU granted preservation order

The firm, which has links to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, is at the centre of a COVID-19 media campaign contract awarded by the National Health of Department.

FILE: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who is on special leave pending investigations into the Digital Vibes scandal. Picture: @Twitter/DrZweliMkhize

CAPE TOWN - The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been granted an order to freeze all accounts linked to controversial company Digital Vibes.

The SIU was granted the preservation order last week to freeze about R22 million held in bank and investment accounts linked to entities or individuals who received payments from Digital Vibes.

The firm is at the centre of a COVID-19 media campaign contract awarded by the National Health of Department.

The SIU’s freezing order comes about two weeks after Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was placed on special leave by President Cyril Ramaphosa while the investigation into the Digital Vibes contract is concluded.

Mkhize has been linked to certain individuals in the company who previously worked closely with him.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the SIU approached the Special Tribunal for the preservation order to freeze the accounts following an investigation into allegations of unlawful and irregular procurement.

The SIU said the Department paid approximately R150 million to Digital Vibes, with about R25 million paid in respect of the NHI media campaign.

It said R125 million of the contract was in respect of the COVID-19 contract.

The SIU’s final report is expected to be ready by the end of June.

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On 8 June the Presidency announced that President Cyril Ramaphosa had placed Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on special leave.

"This period of special leave will enable the minister to attend to allegations and investigations concerning contracts between the Department of Health and a service provider, Digital Vibes," the Presidency said in a short statement released on Tuesday afternoon.

"The Special Investigating Unit is investigating this matter and the president awaits a report on the outcome of this probe."

The embattled health minister had been under pressure from some quarters to step aside in the wake of the Digital Vibes contract scandal.

The company is owned by people Mkhize himself called "fellow comrades" and was awarded a contract worth millions of rand, which was flagged by the Auditor-General as irregular and potentially wasteful spending.

It since emerged Mkhize and his son also might have benefitted personally from the deal.

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