SIU wins R22-million freeze order, goes for more
AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
AFTER getting a court order to freeze R22-million from a communication firm controversially linked to suspended South African Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is gunning for more, including an attempt to get individuals to pay back monies.
The Special Tribunal yesterday granted the SIU an order to freeze R22-million in cash and investments that belong to Digital Vibes, a communications company at the heart of a R150-million tender scandal involving the Department of Health and Minister Mkhize.
The scandal, which includes Digital Vibes paying for work done on Mkhize’s Johannesburg home, has led to the Minister going on special leave to allow the investigations to go on.
The SIU said the order granted by Judge Lebogang Modiba was in connection with payments made by Digital Vibes to individuals and entities.
The order prohibits Digital Vibes, Tahera Mather, Naadira Mitha, Suhaila Mather, Suhaila Mather Consulting (Pty Ltd, Amods Attorneys, WT Graphics and Designs (Pty) Ltd and Strategeewhiz (Pty) Ltd from dealing with monies held in several bank accounts.
According to The Daily Maverick and Scorpio, Digital Vibes, the company that won the R150-million COVID-19 communication tender, bought a R150 000 Toyota Land Cruiser for Mkhize’s son, Dedani.
This revelation comes soon after it was revealed that Digital Vibes paid for work done at Mkhize’s Johannesburg home and that the company paid Dedani R300 000. Mkhize, who has spearheaded SA’s war against COVID-19, has said he was not directly implicated in the scandal. Digital Vibes is owned by Mkhize’s long-time associates Mather and Mitha.
Kaizer Kganyago, the SIU spokesperson said: “The SIU approached the Special Tribunal for preservation order/interdict to freeze the accounts following an investigation into allegations of unlawful and/or irregular procurement of Covid-19 communication services by the Department. The SIU will launch review proceedings in the Special Tribunal within the next 30 working days, and also seek an order against Digital Vibes and other relevant entities/individuals to pay back all financial losses suffered by the State as consequence of the appointment of Digital Vibes by the Department. Though the SIU investigation in the appointment of Digital Vibes is ongoing, the preliminary investigations have revealed clear evidence exposing two highly irregular and unlawful transactions.”
Kganyago said the first transaction is a procurement process in 2019 in terms of which Digital Vibes was appointed to perform communications services relating to the National Health Insurance (NHI). The second transaction occurred in 2020 during the tenure of the first transaction when Digital Vibes was ‘appointed’ in respect of a Covid-19 awareness campaign without any competitive bidding or other procurement processes at all.
He said the Covid-19 awareness campaign was merely brought-in as an extension to the contract between the Department and Digital Vibes in respect of the NHI media campaign, in circumstances where such an extension was irregular and unlawful.
“Furthermore, the Department utilised the budget allocated for the NHI contract and NHI media campaign to pay for the purported Covid-19 media campaign work allegedly performed by Digital Vibes,” he added.
The Department paid a total of approximately R150 million to Digital Vibes, approximately R 25 million of which was paid in respect of the NHI media campaign and approximately R125 million in respect of the Covid-19 appointment.