Sunday World can today reveal the length(s) former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize went to cover up the Digital Vibes scandal when the media started reporting on it last year.
This paper understands that Mkhize’s former ally, Tahera Mather, has told law enforcement agencies that when the media, primarily the Daily Maverick, reported on the Digital Vibes saga, Mkhize convened a series of meetings between the two of them, where plans to make the story go away were hatched.
Mather is said to have told the police that Mkhize tagged Digital Vibes director Naadhira Mitha to draft fictitious agreements to justify some of the payments made to companies owned by his cronies.
Mitha, who at some point was Mkhize’s assistant private secretary, is said to have refused to draft the agreements as she was not a trained attorney.
Mather also told the police that she was coached by a legal adviser to Mkhize to tell the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) the following:
- She was Dedani Mkhize’s mentor.
- That the young Mkhize was traumitised after being involved in an accident and that she assisted by giving him R300 000.
- She hardly had contact with Mkhize and they were just comrades who did not enjoy a personal relationship.
When the media pressure was mounting and the SIU got involved, a meeting was held at the Mugg & Bean restaurant at King Shaka International Airport in Durban, where Mather met with a lawyer whose name is known to this newspaper.
During this meeting, the lawyer revealed that he had been in a meeting with a woman – Radha Hariram – on whose name Digital Vibes was registered on Mather’s recommendation.
It is at the meeting that the lawyer demanded that Mather pay Hariram R8-million for which she would take responsibility for the allegations leveled against Digital Vibes in the media.
The lawyer, according to information at Sunday World’s disposal, further suggested that Mather should begin to pay that very same day. She paid R800 000 into the lawyer’s trust account.
At the meeting, according to Mather, the lawyer pointed to a file he had in his possession and said he had all the bank statements. At this stage, Mather says she was alone and confused and also wanted Hariram to co-operate.
Mather thereafter received a telephone call informing her that the lawyer wanted her to pay R16-million in order for all the allegations in the media to go away.
Both Mather and Mitha drove to Willowfontein, where Mkhize was allegedly informed about what had transpired with Hariram.
Mkhize told her that this was an extortion, which required someone to assist in dealing with the lawyer. Hariram and one of the lawyers acquittanced.
According to Mather, Mkhize was of the view that if Hariram was taken care of financially, all the allegations that had played out in the media at the time “would be something of the past. In other words, the allegations would go away. Minister Mkhize was explicit that Ms Hariram should be kept close and that the story lines must all be integrated and that everyone ought to speak from the same hymn book.”
At a later stage, one of Mkhize’s aides (and whose name is also known to this newspaper) tried to intervene. He told Mather “that this cannot be allowed to happen to minister Mkhize as he is going to be the next president of the republic of South Africa”.
It was then that the lawyer and Mkhize’s aide started corresponding.
The aide subsequently scheduled a meeting between the lawyer, Hariram and Mather at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Durban. She said she distinctively recalls Mkhize’s aide saying that they had “to be nice” to the lawyer and Hariram “because we need to save baba, in reference to minister Mkhize”.
A lengthy process of numerous meetings and communications ensued between the aide and the lawyer which resulted in Mather paying an amount of R9-million into the aide’s trust account, which would then in turn be paid to the lawyer’s trust account.
Through her previous attorney, Mather requested Mkhize’s aide to provide her “a detailed bill of costs and services rendered” on her behalf and Mitha.
In this regard, the aide subsequently advised that he at no stage represented them (Mather and Mitha) despite them having paid him R3.2-million.
That’s when Mather said Mkhize must pay back a portion of the monies he had received thus far.
This appears to have been the beginning of the fallout between Mkhize and Mather.
The Hawks this week confirmed that investigations into Digital Vibes scandal were at an advanced stage. They also revealed that there was a “person of interest” the investigation team is focusing on.
Sunday World believes this person of special interest is Mkhize as this newspaper exclusively reported last Sunday that the police were circling around him.
This paper also reported that Mather and Mitha are cooperating with the Hawks in exchange for immunity against prosecution.