Friday, 19 July, 2024
HomeMedico-LegalTribunal dismisses Digital Vibes beneficiaries’ bid to avoid scrutiny

Tribunal dismisses Digital Vibes beneficiaries’ bid to avoid scrutiny

The Special Tribunal has dismissed an application by six companies not to be joined in the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU’s) court bid to recover and set aside the Department of Health’s R150m irregular tender with Digital Vibes, paving the way for the SIU to continue with its case against Mkhize and the companies that allegedly benefited from the tender.

The companies, including All Out Trading, Tusokuhle Farming, Azwakele Trading and Projects, and former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s daughter-in-law, Sithokozile Khaliphile Mkhize, had applied to not be added to the SIU’s review application to have the contract declared unlawful, set aside and have the money paid back to the state.

The SIU alleges Mkhize’s family received more than R10m from the Digital Vibes contract to manage the government’s communications on COVID-19 and its National Health Insurance campaign, including a R1.8m payment to state-owned entity Ithala Development Finance Corporation and to Cedar Falls Properties, through Sirela Trading, to finance a farm. The former Minister’s wife, May Mkhize, is sole director of Cedar Falls.

The tribunal ordered that the parties approach the High Court which has jurisdiction over the matter, reports BusinessLIVE.

However, in terms of the law the applicants can appeal the decision in the High Court or the Supreme Court, said tribunal spokesperson Selby Makgotho.

“They will have to file leave (to appeal) and I will not be able to pre-empt their next action but they will be joined to the main review application in the Digital Vibes contract,” Makgotho said.

This case’s outcome is critical for Mkhize’s ambitions leading up to the ANC’s leadership conference in December. He hasn’t publicly declared his intentions, but is expected to contest for the party leadership against Cyril Ramaphosa.

Clearing any corruption allegations before the leadership contest is crucial for Mkhize since the ANC implemented a step-aside rule for any members facing criminal charges or disciplinary proceedings.

The former Minister has taken the SIU report on review to set aside the findings and recommendations.

Meanwhile, a Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) employee accused of accepting a R160 000 bribe from Digital Vibes has denied the accusations in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Pretoria, saying the money she received was for “healthcare products”.

Lizeka Tonjeni, who is on trial on one count of corruption, was appointed as the project manager of a R3.9m contract MISA awarded to Digital Vibes in 2018, reports News24.

During this time, she received R160 000 from Digital Vibes, which the state alleges was a bribe to further Digital Vibes’ interests.

Lesego Bokaba, assistant director of risk management at MISA, testified that Tonjeni did not have approval to carry out remunerative work outside her workplace and did not disclose that she earned money outside the public entity.

However, Tonjeni's attorney said the MISA CEO was aware that she did work for Digital Vibes and that this was equivalent to disclosure and approval, but Bokaba said the CEO's knowledge could not be considered as approval or a disclosure.

The lawyer also told the court Tonjeni sold healthcare products and that the CEO was one of her clients. He added that Digital Vibes made payments to Tonjeni for health products, and that the money was paid into into her personal bank account because “it was too expensive to maintain a company bank account”.

The trial continues.

 

News24 article – The money was for health products, says woman accused of taking R160K bribe from Digital Vibes (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Mkhize accuses SIU of delaying Digital Vibes probe

 

Health Department official resigns over Digital Vibes, colleagues demoted

 

Demotions ‘a slap on the wrist’ for top officials implicated in Digital Vibes scandal

 

 

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