/ 21 June 2023

Former health spokesperson Popo Maja in court over alleged Digital Vibes graft

Popo Maja
Popo Maja

Former head of communications in the department of health Popo Maja was charged with corruption during an appearance at the specialised commercial crimes court on Wednesday, police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Brenda Muridili confirmed. 

Maja was placed on suspension in September 2021 along with a number of other health department executives over their alleged roles in the dodgy Digital Vibes communication contract

Health Minister Joe Phaahla placed Maja on suspension a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa made public a report by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) into the scandal, which had already resulted in the resignation of former health minister Zweli Mkhize.

The report into the department’s awarding of a National Health Insurance media campaign and Covid-19 communications contract to Digital Vibes, found damning evidence of misconduct against government officials including Mkhize.

The investigative body’s report found that Mkhize’s denials that he or his family had benefited from the tender were “untrue”.

According to the report, Mkhize’s conduct in approaching the then director general of the department to appoint Digital Vibes was “at best improper … and at worst … unlawful” because it constituted interference in the affairs of the department’s administrative authority.

The Mail & Guardian previously reported that although the SIU has recommended that criminal charges be pursued against health director general Sandile Buthelezi and former acting director general Anban Pillay over the Digital Vibes tender award, it only recommended executive action by the president against Mkhize.

Mkhize maintains his innocence, claiming the report found him “guilty of and complicit in criminal conduct and has effectively ruined my reputation, dignity and my political and professional career”.