Digital Vibes, an obscure communications company from KwaZulu-Natal, appointed two close associates of Health Minister Zweli Mkhize as paid consultants after it secured an irregular communications contract from the national Health Department, claims a Scorpio investigation on the Daily Maverick site. It says the department appointed Digital Vibes in late 2019 through a contentious closed tender to provide communications services for the government’s National Health Insurance roll-out.
The scope of work was extended in March 2020 to include communications services for COVID-19. In a period of just nine months, the firm obtained orders from the department for COVID-19 projects valued at more than R82m. The same company also clinched a contract from the Department of Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs in 2018, while Mkhize led this department.
In both instances Tahera Mather, Mkhize’s long-serving personal spokesperson and alleged family friend, scored consultancy jobs from Digital Vibes after it had secured the government contracts.
The Health Department reportedly denies that there was a conflict of interest, but it says that it is investigating the deal.
Digital Vibes has no website, notes the Scorpio report. Its business address is listed as a residential property in KwaDukuza (formerly Stanger) on KZN’s North Coast, according to company records. The company’s principal director, Radha Hariram, doesn’t appear to have any visible footprint in the communications industry. Hariram and Mather are both originally from Stanger.
After Digital Vibes won the NHI contract, the company also appointed Naadhira Mitha, a former assistant private secretary in Mkhize’s office when he was Minister of Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs.
In other words, says Scorpio, two associates of Mkhize have pocketed emergency COVID-19 cash from the Health Department via their consultancy work for a company appointed by the department.
Neither responded to queries about how much they made from the contract.
Full Scorpio report on the Daily Maverick site (Open access)