Parliament clears Zweli Mkhize of contravening Ethics in Digital Vibes’ R150 million contract

Parliament clears Zweli Mkhize of contravening Ethics in Digital Vibes’ R150 million contract

Parliament has cleared former health minister Zweli Mkhize of contravening the Ethics and Member’s Interest Code of Conduct in relation the controversial Digital Vibes’ R150 million contract.

In a letter dated 12 April, the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests wrote to Mkhize informing him of its decision following deliberations on the matter.

Complaint

A complaint was first laid by the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) deputy chief whip Siviwe Gwarube after the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), in its report, found that he benefitted from R6,720 in repairs to his home.

This was said to be paid for by Digital Vibes.

Gwarube had argued that Mkhize breached the Ethics Code by not disclosing the alleged benefit.

The DA MP’s other complaint related to Mkhize’s son who allegedly received R460,000 from the communications company.

But the committee says that the former minister cannot be held liable on behalf of his son’s conduct.

“On the analysis of the documentary evidence, the committee considered the fact that Mr Thamsanqa Mkhize was the person liaising with 4Way Maintenance and the person who was in charge of making the payments in respect of invoices. In this regard, the committee concluded that you did not breach the code,” the committee said.

“In the light of the above, the complaint filed in this matter is accordingly closed,” it added.

Special Tribunal

The matter comes a day before the Special Tribunal delivers its judgment on the SIU’s joinder application.

The Tribunal’s judgment was reserved in early March.

The SIU wants a preservation order totalling R266 million imposed on Digital Vibes and 11 others.

There is a previous preservation order in which the SIU was granted an order to freeze R22 million in bank accounts linked to Digital Vibes.

Digital Vibes was contracted to handle the Department of Health’s National Health Insurance (NHI) communication work and later, Covid-19 media campaigns.

The SIU had filed a 90-page affidavit to the Special Tribunal in a bid to recover the R150 million paid to Digital Vibes last year.

SIU report

Mkhize stepped down as Health Minister in August 2021 after the SIU submitted its damning report to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The report found that Mkhize and his family personally benefited from the Digital Vibes contract.

But Mkhize has since taken the SIU’s report on legal review, claiming that his submissions and evidence were not taken into account by the unit.

The former minister was also accused of putting pressure on the Department of Health to hire Digital Vibes.

The SIU told the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in September last year that Mkhize may have been negligent when approving budgets worth R132 million relating to the department’s campaigns.

According to the investigating unit, the former health minister approved two budget applications – to the value of R46 million and R85 million – for Digital Vibes.

Both applications were approved on 20 January 2020 and 16 June 2020.

This was 52 and 99 days, respectively, after Digital Vibes service-level agreement (SLA) was signed on 29 November 2019.

Digital Vibes only started delivering Covid-19 communication services from 6 March 2020.

Meanwhile, the SIU’s report also found that Mkhize may have acted contrary to a relevant Cabinet decision on Digital Vibes.

The investigating unit has since recommended that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) consider charging Mkhize and his son, Dedani, for corruption over “suspicious payments” funnelled from Digital Vibes.

Dedani allegedly benefited to the tune of R3.8 million from the contract, which he disputed in a lengthy Facebook post.

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