Former health minister Zweli Mkhize has been thrown under the bus after his self-proclaimed comrades, who were awarded the R150-million tender, allegedly decided to turn against him in the latest chapter of the Digital Vibes saga.
Mkhize’s associates, Tahera Mather and his former private secretary, Naadhira Mitha, are co-operating with the Hawks (Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation) in exchange for immunity from prosecution as investigators circle around the embattled ANC bigwig.
Impeccable sources close to the investigation have told Sunday World that Mather has prepared an affidavit that implicates Mkhize in the awarding of the contract and how he – as former minister – directly benefited millions from the R150-million that was paid to Digital Vibes by the Department of Health.
Of particular note is the revelation that R20-million was allegedly set aside as part of Mkhize’s war chest for this year’s ANC national elective conference scheduled for December, where he intends to run for the presidency of the ANC.
It is believed Mather told investigators that the money was for branches that needed to consolidate memberships ahead of the conference.
Both Mather and Mitha are being represented by former National Director of Public Prosecutions advocate Shaun Abrahams, who yesterday said: “I can confirm that I am representing the two ladies and a number of other respondents.” He declined to comment further.
Communication adviser for the former minister Vuyo Mkhize also declined to be drawn on the matter. “Dr Zweli Mkhize has no comment on the story and we are not going to comment on media speculations in this regard,” he said.
Speaking to Sunday World yesterday, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Thandi Mbambo said: “We cannot comment on matters we are investigating as we cannot disclose who are our witnesses on the Digital Vibes case are. That is part of the investigations that we are working on and in that regard, we cannot comment.”
Sunday World has reliably been informed that Mather and Mitha are to be placed under witness protection as the probe into the millions Mkhize allegedly benefited from Digital Vibes escalates.
Mkhize is not the only one implicated, according to sources close to the situation. There are several other prominent individuals, including his son Dedani and several health department officials. Among the health officials are suspended health department director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi, former health department acting director-general Anban Pillay and former health department spokesperson Popo Maja. Other people dragged into the scandal include Mkhize’s relatives and friends, whose cocktail of companies were used to channel funds to the former minister.
None of the companies that was allegedly used to channel funds to Mkhize conducted any business with Digital Vibes.
They include Sirela Trading, which allegedly received two payments of R1-million, as well as Mateta Special Operations, Mkokwena Events Management and Bevels Communications Advertising and Digital Media.
The payments were allegedly made at Mkhize’s behest.
Mkhize was allegedly also showered with gifts by Digital Vibes. Some of these gifts include a Fabiani shirt, a Swarovsky pen, a pair of Happy Socks and Carolina Herrera perfume.
Some of the payments, according to sources, were made in rapid succession as Mather would sometimes personally drive to Mkhize’s Willowfontein residence in Pietermaritzburg to hand over cash, while in other instances Mkhize would allegedly receive cash at, among other locations, petrol stations and OR Tambo Airport. Some of the payments would be delivered to the former minister’s Bryanston or Pietermaritzburg homes.
According to those close to the situation, Mather personally coordinated several payments, either directing Mitha to facilitate the obtaining of the requested cash or to directly transfer money into the bank accounts provided by Mkhize.
Eyewitness News reported last Sunday that both Mather and Mitha do not intend to contest the SIU report on Digital Vibes, which Mkhize has taken to the Pretoria High Court on review.
Mkhize argues that it was unlawful that the SIU had reached predetermined conclusions in making adverse findings against him.
Mkhize was recently cleared by parliament for breaching executive ethics as a result of his son, Dedani, benefiting from Digital Vibes.
Sunday World, however, understands that Mather and Mitha will reveal that several payments and gifts that allegedly went to Dedani were done at the former minister’s request.