Minister implicated in multi-million rand communications tender
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has expressed shock at the amounts of money spent by his department on a communications company allegedly run by his close associates.
Mkhize broke his silence in a media briefing held yesterday morning over the controversial multi-million rand communications tender awarded by his department to a company called Digital Vibes.
The briefing came amid growing calls for Mkhize to come clean or step down after the relatively unknown company with links to his close associates scored the huge contract in 2019.
Civil rights and anti-corrup(NHI) tion organisations also added their voices to calls for the minister to step down pending an investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
Mkhize said he didn’t personally benefit from the controversial contract and did not think he has to step aside.
He said the department’s internal investigation found the awarding of the contract to be irregular.
Mkhize said authors who conducted the investigation have suggested that rates charged by Digital Vibes should be compared to those of other service providers rendering the same services.
This came as the South African Council of Churches expressed dismay at what it termed “gross and unfathomable abuse of public funds” which made “a mockery of government communications.”
The Daily Maverick, an online newspaper, ran a series of articles on how the littleknown company, Digital Vibes was paid more than R100m for communication services, including setting up interviews for the minister and arranging press briefings.
Daily Maverick reported this week that Digital Vibes, a company apparently controlled by personal spokesperson and long-time friend of Mkhize, Tahera Mather, and his former personal assistant, Naadhira Mitha, “pocketed roughly R90m in suspicious payments emanating from a R150m Covid-19 and National Health Insurance communications contract.”
Mather and Mitha were Mkhize’s communications strategists during his bid for ANC presidency ahead of the Nasrec 2017 ANC elective conference.
Digital Vibes was appointed in 2019 through a closed tender to provide communication services for the government’s National Health Insurance rollout, with the scope of the work later extended to include communications services for Covid-19, Daily Maverick reported.
Siviwe Gwarube, the DA spokesperson and MP serving
in parliament’s portfolio committee on health, said it was untenable for Mkhize to remain in his position while the “looting” of public funds needed to fight Covid-19 happened under his watch.