Zweli Mkhize blames former DG for Digital Vibes scandal

Embattled former health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has launched a fresh legal attack on the SIU and accuses his former director general of having orchestrated his downfall.

FILE: Digital Vibes boss Tahera Mather (R) and former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Tahera Mather/Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - Embattled former health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has launched a fresh legal attack on the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and accuses his former director general of having orchestrated his downfall.

Mkhize has asked the high court in Pretoria to declare the Digital Vibes report as unlawful and unconstitutional.

In his supplementary founding affidavit, seen by Eyewitness News, Mkhize persisted with his assertion that he was merely a victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by the SIU.

He also wanted the court to set aside the report. In the document, dated 18 March 2022, Mkhize also wanted the SIU to pay the cost of three senior counsels.

PLACING THE BLAME

Mkhize placed the blame squarely at the door of former director general at the Health Department Precious Matsoso whom he painted as the real culprit in the appointment of Digital Vibes even though it was his close associates who were linked to the company.

In the supplementary documents Mkhize explained that he and Matsoso had a difficult relationship.

He also used submissions from head of the GCIS Phumla Williams to connect the dots between Matsoso and his former personal assistant and close associate Tahera Mather who was heavily implicated in the report.

Mkhize claimed that Mather’s presence at government meetings on behalf of the Health Department had preceded the Digital Vibes contract.

Mkhize said the appointment of Mather in this regard would have been the sole responsibility of the former director general.

“Ms Matsoso had a clear motive and interest in implicating me,” claimed Mkhize, arguing that the SIU failed to consider the former official’s desire to point a finger at him to avoid taking responsibility for her alleged actions.

MKHIZE'S FUTURE ASPIRATIONS

The latest move is seen as part of Mkhize’s attempt to clear his name ahead of the ANC’s National Congress in December 2022. He resigned as health minister after he was implicated in the R150 million Digital Vibes where the contract was unlawfully awarded to his former aides and some of the money ended up benefiting Mkhize’s family.

Mkhize has been quietly working the ground in KwaZulu-Natal as he builds up support with the intention of contesting one of the top positions within the governing party’s leadership.

The timing of his latest court battle is widely seen as Mkhize’s greater need to remain relevant in the eyes of ANC members, who would vote for the new leadership.

The SIU found that Mkhize, his family and some of his close associates benefited from the multimillion rand contract awarded to Digital Vibes for COVID-19 communications.

He approached the high court in October seeking to challenge the report, claiming it was tainted by “stark irregularities,” and that there were several breaches in processes, which included not giving notice or substantial information on some of the matters he was questioned on.

IRRATIONAL

In the latest court papers Mkhize flagged three main issues. First, that the SIU approached the matter with a closed mind and a predetermined outcome. Secondly, that the SIU failed to disclose adverse allegations and didn’t take his representations into consideration or report them to the president. Lastly the SIU report, said Mkhize, erred in law arguing that it cannot point to any direct evidence of misconduct on his part.

“I was bound by and acted in terms of the decision actually taken by Cabinet, which required me [as health minister] to develop the NHI media strategy,” explained Mkhize in the documents.

He questioned the SIU’s reliance on an alleged classified resolution by Cabinet, insisting there was no resolution that GCIS would handle the communication strategy.

Mkhize also argued that the Cabinet resolution was a classified document and therefore the SIU could not have relied on a document it did not see or that which it had no right to possess. The former minister said this was proof that the findings against him were irrational.

He said the SIU’s responding affidavit showed it had a predetermined outcome and approached the matter with a closed mind and in violation of the law, accusing it of breaching his rights to natural justice.

TIMING

Last year Mkhize also accused the investigating body, which institutes investigations after proclamations from the president, of destroying his political career.

Mkhize also raised an issue with the timing of the SIU’s report.

He said the SIU’s report was submitted to President Cyril Ramaphosa on the same day that it held a follow-up meeting with him and six other affidavits where critical and relevant information was submitted.

“It's impossible for the SIU to have considered the evidence and submissions before submitting its final report to the president on the same day,” said Mkhize.

The SIU has refused to comment on Mkhize’s second supplementary papers, saying these were issues which would be ventilated in the court.

Last week the investigating body, in a separate matter involving Digital Vibes at the Special Tribunal, told the court a series of companies linked to Mkhize and his family were used as a money-laundering scheme to divert money from Digital Vibes.

It wanted to add six other companies to its review application to set aside the contract worth R150 million.

The SIU has 30 days to respond to Mkhize’s supplementary affidavit.