SIU secures order to freeze R22m in bank accounts linked to Digital Vibes

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On special leave: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
On special leave: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
Melinda Stuurman
  • The Special Tribunal granted an interdict to freeze bank and investment accounts of people and entities linked to Digital Vibes.
  • The company, with strong links to Zweli Mkhize's former associates, bagged payments worth R150 million from the health department.
  • Mkhize is currently on special leave, while the awarding of contracts to Digital Vibes is being investigated.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been granted an order to freeze R22 million in bank accounts linked to Digital Vibes, which was awarded a multimillion-rand contract by the Department of Health.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the SIU said the Special Tribunal had granted the preservation order on 17 June.

"The Special Tribunal Order, inter alia, prohibits Digital Vibes, Tahera Mather, Naadhira Mitha, Suhaila Mather, Suhaila Mather Consulting (Pty) Ltd, Amods Attorneys, WT Graphics and Designs (Pty) Ltd, and Strategeewhiz (Pty) Ltd (the 1st Respondent and the 5th to 11th Respondents) from dealing with the funds held in the relevant bank and investment accounts in any manner," read the statement.

The unit said it had approached the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) earlier this month with evidence.

The FIC assisted the SIU to place a hold on R22 million identified as funds which had flowed from money paid to Digital Vibes by the Department of Health.

Last month, the Daily Maverick exposed details of how Mather and Mitha, who had both previously worked closely with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, had benefitted from a R150 million contract awarded to Digital Vibes, an "obscure" communications company, which initially won a tender to deliver services on the National Health Insurance plan. It was later called on to contribute to the department's Covid-19 response.

The company was eventually paid R150 million.

On Wednesday, the SIU said it would now approach the Special Tribunal to seek an "order against Digital Vibes and other relevant entities/individuals to pay back all financial losses suffered by the state as consequence of the appointment of Digital Vibes by the department".

The statement added that, while the SIU's probe into the awarding of the contract was ongoing, "preliminary investigations have revealed clear evidence exposing two highly irregular and unlawful transactions".

"The first transaction is a procurement process in 2019 in terms of which Digital Vibes was appointed to perform communications services relating to the [NHI]. The second transaction occurred in 2020 during the tenure of the first transaction when Digital Vibes was 'appointed' in respect of a Covid-19 awareness campaign, without any competitive bidding or other procurement process at all.

"The Covid-19 awareness campaign was merely brought in as an extension to the contract between the department and Digital Vibes in respect of the NHI media campaign, in circumstances where such an extension was irregular and unlawful."

The SIU said, of the R150 million paid to Digital Vibes, R25 million went towards the NHI media campaign, while the remaining R125 million was paid for work on Covid-19 projects.

While Mitha is Mkhize's former personal assistant and Mather is a known long-time associate of the minister, he (Mkhize) denied they were his friends.

Mkhize subsequently went on special leave, soon after it emerged that his son had received a bakkie from Digital Vibes.

The SIU said it would forward any evidence of crimes to the National Prosecuting Authority.

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