Mkhize aides fight back in Digital Vibes scandal

Former Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize’s associates Tahera Mather and Naadhira Mitha are fighting back against corruption allegations and have enlisted the help of former National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shaun Abrahams.

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’s associates Tahera Mather and Naadhira Mitha are fighting back the corruption allegations and have enlisted the help of former National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shaun Abrahams.

The two have broken ranks with their former boss and are said to be ready to cooperate with the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Mather and Mitha have become the faces of the scandal where their company, Digital Vibes was unduly paid R150 million in a dodgy contract by the Health Department. The contract eventually cost Mkhize his job as he resigned in disgrace.

While the two have kept quiet in the past and did little to fight off the allegations, Eyewitness News understands that they do not plan to contest the SIU report on Digital Vibes. This is the report that Mkhize has taken to High Court in Pretoria on review - arguing that it was unlawful that the SIU had reached predetermined conclusions in making adverse findings against him.

Abrahams confirmed to Eyewitness News that he was representing the two parties implicated in the multi-million Rand irregular tender but he refused to give further information, arguing attorney-client privileges.

"I am representing a number of respondents in the matter, including Ms Mather and Ms Mitha,” said Abrahams.

While it is understood Abrahams has met with the head of the SIU Advocate Andy Mothibe, Abrahams said there was no such meeting “this month or the last month.”

However, he refused to comment on whether or not a meeting had ever taken place between the two of them, at any time recently.

Abrahams told Eyewitness News he is not representing the former health minister.

Mather, a long-time aide to the former health minister, who also played a leading role in his failed campaign to become ANC president in 2017 has been labelled the real face behind Digital Vibes.

She and her immediate family are said to have pocketed nearly R30m from the R150m irregular communications tender awarded to Digital Vibes.

Mitha, Mkhize’s former PA is also cited in the SIU’s report as having received large chunks of Digital Vibes money.

Mkhize has always maintained his innocence - arguing that he was not involved in the awarding of the contract to his associates. He has also distanced himself from the few millions that flowed from the contract to members of his family - particularly his son Dedanimabhunu (Dedani) Some of the money was used to finance the purchasing of a nail bar for Mkhize’s daughter in law and Dedani’s wife.

Some of it flowed through a number of conduits to the farm owned by Mkhize’s son. The SIU is adamant that the parties acted in concert, throughout the whole saga.

At the same time, the SIU’s Kaizer Kganyago told Eyewitness News that they were aware of Abrahams providing legal services for the two former Mkhize aides. Kganyago said the SIU understanding was that Mather and Mitha were not intending to challenge the SIU report outcomes.

This development seems to confirm that Mather and Mitha are fighting back in a bid to clear their names of any wrongdoing.

Mkhize is fighting for his political life and is building a campaign towards the ANC’s national conference, where he is eyeing a role in the governing party’s presidency - as President or the Deputy President. The Digital Vibes scandal is a blow to his political ambitions. Clearing his name will bolster Mkhize’s political ambitions. However, the latest developments may well frustrate those efforts.

But his political associates have sought to cleanse him of the stench of the scandal - laying the blame for the entire saga at the door of Mather and Mitha.

Those close to Mkhize have expressly told Eyewitness News, that Mather was responsible for dragging the former Health minister’s name through the mud.

“Tahera approached many of us, she was worried that we were left out in the cold as Khabazela (Mkhize’s clan name) focused his energy on serving the country in the ministry. She wanted to find a way to make money and felt it was unfair that we couldn’t benefit,” said one insider to Eyewitness News on the matter.

Eyewitness News understands Mkhize, who is challenging the SIU report will be represented by Jeremy Gauntlett SC, while the SIU is set to have lined up Wim Trengove SC in their corner.

No date has been set for when the high court will hear the matter.

In the supplementary affidavits filed with the court in March, Mkhize blamed the SIU for orchestrating his downfall.

The former minister said the former director-general at the Health Department Precious Matsoso was the real culprit in the saga, explaining that Mather found her way into the national health department’s coffers through the former’s assistance and not his.

Mkhize also accused the SIU of approaching its own work on the Digital Vibes scandal with a predetermined outcome and that it failed to produce any evidence directly implicating him in any misconduct.