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Mkhize challenges 'unlawful and unconstitutional’ SIU conduct

Former Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has filed an application in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) seeking to review and set aside findings and recommendations made by the Special Investigations Unit against him in the Digital Vibes case. Mkhize is also asking that the conduct of the SIU be declared unlawful and unconstitutional.

The Daily News reports that this comes after the SIU investigated alleged irregularities in a tender contract awarded by the national Department of Health to Digital Vibes. The SIU report claimed that Mkhize’s family and some close associates benefited from the tender and another contract worth R150m.

In court papers, Mkhize argues that the SIU’s findings were unfounded and unfair. “The conclusions reached by the SIU, and its ‘findings’ and recommendations against me, are tainted by stark irregularities in the manner in which it conducted its investigation, and in its approach to the evidence, it gathered. These irregularities are both procedural and substantive in nature. The SIU failed to address my version and evidence I provided to it – in most instances, such evidence was entirely ignored where it deviated from the SIU’s predetermined conclusions. Documents in the possession of the SIU were simply withheld so that I could be ambushed.”

In his affidavit, Mkhize further said that in its referral to President Cyril Ramaphosa, some of the SIU’s key findings were markedly different from those put to him during its interrogation. The Daily News report says Mkhize claimed that the SIU failed to disclose allegations made against him by his subordinate, the former Director-General of the Health Department, but relied heavily on those allegations in coming to adverse findings against him.

In the affidavit, Mkhize was adamant that the SIU did not give him an opportunity to respond to those allegations. “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.” Mkhize further explained that had his submissions and evidence been taken into account by the SIU, the organisation would have come to a different conclusion regarding his alleged involvement in the appointment of Digital Vibes.

Daily News article – Former health minister Zweli Mkhize strikes back at SIU findings over Digital Vibes (Open access)

Business Day reports that SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago confirmed they were served with the papers this week and would oppose the application. According to  the presidency – the second and only other respondent in the matter – said through spokesperson Tyrone Seale it “is aware of this matter but has not been served with papers”.

Mkhize distanced himself from his son, who the SIU found benefited to the tune of millions of rands, saying they were “estranged” and he first learnt about his “close” relationship with Digital Vibes director Tahera Mather through media reports.

“After these allegations were made in the media, I was shocked. I flew to Pietermaritzburg where my wife (Dr May Mkhize) and I confronted him on 30 May 2021. He admitted to having what we viewed as a close personal relationship with Ms Mather,” Mkhize said. “I did not have and continue to have no insight into his personal affairs. Sadly, just like the public, I have had to learn about some of his financial benefits from Ms Mather through the media.”

Mkhize also disputed the SIU’s allegation that the appointment of Digital Vibes in November 2019 to lead communications on the National Health Insurance scheme contradicted a Cabinet resolution that the government information system GCIS should do so on behalf of the government.

In his affidavit, Mkhize also noted that, though a large amount, there was nothing “alarming” or “untoward” about the R150m spent on a communications contract when it was compared with the Health Department’s R60bn budget. Mkhize said the SIU did not investigate the matter with an open mind. He cited the line and tone of questioning by the unit’s counsel who interviewed him, saying it was “purely prosecutorial”.

BusinessDay Pressreader article – Digital Vibes probe ‘tainted and predetermined’, says Mkhize (Open access)

Government spokesperson Ndabezinhle Sibiya is suing the SIU, a forensic accountant, Arena Holdings, and the Sunday Times editor and publisher for R500,000 in damages. They allegedly claimed he was linked to Sotobe Media, in the matter between the SIU and Digital Vibes, where Sotobe Media had allegedly received potential irregular payments of more than R9.7m from Digital Vibes.

The Daily News reports that Sibiya is seeking relief from the Special Tribunal to declare that this was all done without giving him an opportunity to be heard, and that it was defamatory and false. Further, he is calling for the section of the Sunday Times article, published on 31 July 2021 and 1 August 2021, based on the SIU report, which refers to his alleged link to Sotobe Media, to be removed from the article and its archives.

He also seeks to have Arena Holdings, the Sunday Times editor, and the Sunday Times, interdicted and restrained from “publishing any manner or form any statement written, oral or graphic, or any article that conveys to the public or implies that Sotobe Media is a company related to him”.

Daily news article – Digital Vibes: Government spokesperson sues SIU and the Sunday Times for R500 000 (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Health oversight committee ‘shielded’ Mkhize during Digital Vibes scandal

 

SIU report into Digital Vibes: More heads on the block

 

SIU: Mkhize ignored Cabinet resolutions; processes manipulated

 

 

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