The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) said on Wednesday that it would oppose former health minister Zweli Mkhize’s high court application to review and set aside a report that found him “at worst unlawful” in his conduct regarding the R150-million Digital Vibes tender scandal.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian, SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago dismissed reports that the unit was at court on Tuesday evening following Mkhize’s high court application. But he confirmed that the SIU would oppose the application “within the timeframe of the court”.
Mkhize, who voluntarily resigned in August after allegations of tender corruption in the health department, said in his founding affidavit of 14 October that he wants the Johannesburg high court to declare the SIU’s conduct against him “unlawful and unconstitutional” and to set aside, with costs, its report and referral letter sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa in June and July, respectively.
Mkhize argues in his affidavit that the SIU did not take into account his evidence and that it approached the matter with a predetermined outcome. In doing so the SIU “failed to maintain an open and enquiring mind, as the law requires of it”.
The former minister says the investigative body also failed to disclose allegations made against him by the former director general (DG) of health, arguing that the allegations were false.
“The SIU gave me no opportunity to respond to those allegations which form the main plank of its findings against me. The allegations are indeed demonstrably false, as other evidence corroborates, and appear to have been driven by the previous difficult relationship between myself and the former DG.”
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 Dr Sandile Buthelezi and former acting director general Dr Anban Pillay over the Digital Vibes award, it only recommended executive action by the president against Mkhize.
Pillay was placed on cautionary suspension a week after Buthelezi was suspended. Other health department officials have also been placed on cautionary suspension, including spokesperson Popo Maja.
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”.