/ 23 June 2021

SIU freezes R22-million in Digital Vibes accounts

South African Minister Zweli Mkhize Conducts An Inspection Of King Dinuzulu Hospital
Former health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize. (Photo by Darren Stewart/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

The Special Tribunal, which is mandated to recover miss-spent public funds, was last week granted an urgent interim order freezing R22-million in bank and investment accounts linked to Digital Vibes. The communications company is under investigation for an irregular contract with the department of health, which has put suspended Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s political career in the balance.

The funds include some R3.5-million held in an account in the name of Suhaila Mather, the daughter of Tahera Mather, an associate of Mkhize who reportedly controlled Digital Vibes together with the minister’s former personal assistant Naadhira Mitha. 

The company was paid R150-million by the health department for communications work around the National Health Insurance initiative and the government’s Covid-19 response measures.

The order granted by Judge Lebogang Modiba also freezes R1-million in a bank account of a company called Strategeewhizz, which is registered in Mitha’s name, plus roughly R9-million held in four accounts in the name of WT Graphics and Designs, which is linked to one Wasim Mather.

Lastly, the order freezes R7.79-million in an account belonging to Amod Attorneys, whose sole director is listed as Ahmed Rashid Amod.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) said it would now ask the Special Tribunal to have the Covid-19 media campaign contract awarded to Digital Vibes declared unlawful and invalid.

SIU spokesman Kaizer Kganyago declined to give any further comment at this stage as the investigation into the deal is ongoing. The company is alleged to have inflated prices for work done by subcontractors and to have charged the health department considerable sums for co-ordinating Mkhize’s media engagements during the pandemic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said he is expecting a report from the SIU by the end of this month, and would wait for this before making a decision on Mkhize’s future as a minister.

He placed Mkhize on special leave on 8 June as pressure grew following media reports of payments on behalf of his son, Dedani, by Digital Vibes, as well as repairs to a Johannesburg house owned by the minister’s trust.

Mather in 2017 ran the the media component of Mkhize’s failed campaign to become ANC president.

The order was made last week but the judge ruled that it may only be made public once it had been served on the respondents.