SIU probe directly implicates Mkhize in Digital Vibes appointment - report

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The SIU has reportedly implicated Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in the Digital Vibes investigation.
The SIU has reportedly implicated Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in the Digital Vibes investigation.
Sharon Seretlo, Gallo Images
  • SIU investigators reportedly allege that Zweli Mkhize put pressure on officials to appoint Digital Vibes, ran by his associates, as a communication service provider.
  • The health department's then deputy DG Dr Anban Pillay was reportedly a central player in advancing the company's interests, which he has denied.
  • The SIU is to hand over its report to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday.

A Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into the controversial R150-million Digital Vibes contract has found that Health Minister Zweli Mkhize allegedly pressured officials to appoint the company linked to his close associates, according to a Sunday Times report.

SIU investigators this week interviewed Mkhize, who is on special leave pending the finalisation of the investigation into the Digital Vibes tender saga at the Department of Health.

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

The department initially contracted Digital Vibes for the National Health Insurance (NHI) campaign in 2019, which is when Mkhize reportedly pressured officials to appoint the agency to the R150-million communications contract.

The work was expanded to include communications on Covid-19.

In papers before the Special Tribunal, the SIU said the health department's deputy director-general Dr Anban Pillay sent a private email to Mkhize's associate, Tahera Mather, asking her to help the department in communicating its Covid-19 messaging for two weeks.

Mather replied the same day with a R35.9 million quote from Digital Vibes, and got the nod from Pillay, according to the newspaper.

No written contract was signed in this regard, investigators said.

Earlier this week, the SIU said the Special Tribunal had granted an order on 17 June for it to freeze R22 million in bank accounts linked to Digital Vibes.

In its application to freeze funds dispersed from the Digital Vibes contract, the SIU's Special Tribunal detailed how Pillay allegedly acted to advance the interests of Digital Vibes.

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The Sunday Times reported Pillay as saying that he had sent the email to Mather, a contracted service provider of the department, after Parliament's portfolio committee requested that they undertake an urgent communication campaign.

"It is not true that I introduced Digital Vibes to the closed panel nor did I introduce Ms Mather to the National Department of Health," Pillay said.

Mkhize has denied the allegations against him.

He has also denied that he, Mather and her colleague Naadhira Mitha were friends.

Mkhize went on special leave soon after it emerged that his son, Dedani, received a bakkie paid for by Digital Vibes.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the unit had no comment on the investigation.

"We have nothing to say... we are busy with the preparation of the report, which [will] be handed to the president on Wednesday. We believe the Sunday Times got hold of the Special Tribunal papers filed in court to freeze bank accounts linked to Digital Vibes... we never said anything to anyone," Kganyago said on Sunday.

Efforts to get comment from Mkhize drew a blank as calls and messages went unanswered.

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