Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests on Tuesday (13 April) has controversially cleared former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize of benefitting from the irregular Digital Vibes tender, contradicting the findings of the Special Investigations Unit, writes MedicalBrief.
Mkhize – who has spent the past few months fighting for his political life after the findings of an SIU report into the R150m communications contract with Digital Vibes led to his resignation – is reportedly eyeing the ANC’s top job in December.
He stepped down in August after the Special Investigations Unit submitted a damning report on his financial affairs to President Cyril Ramaphosa. That report found that Mkhize and his family personally benefitted from the Digital Vibes contract. However, Mkhize took the SIU’s report on legal review, claiming that his submissions and evidence were not taken into account by the unit.
Mkhize, who is still an MP, faced two complaints before the committee for allegedly receiving benefits for maintenance work at his Bryanston property.
EWN reports that the Joint Committee said he did not breach the ethics code when it came to the disclosure of his interests. The other complaint is related to his son, Thamsanqa, who apparently received R460,000 from the company.
The acting Registrar of Members’ Interests has written to Mkhize to inform him that they found he did not breach the ethics code.
News24 reports that the SIU argued before the Special Tribunal that the Digital Vibes contract was a money-laundering scheme designed to siphon funds to Mkhize's family, while also shielding the family from accountability. It argued that Mkhize’s son and wife benefitted from funds that could be traced to the irregular tender.
DA health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube filed a complaint with the committee, saying Mkhize failed to disclose this benefit. The committee also dismissed the complaint that money from Digital Vibes was used to settle a bill at Mkhize’s Bryanston home.
In responding to Parliament’s findings, Gwarube said it was disappointing that the Ethics Committee concluded that the alleged funnelling of money to Mkhize’s son wasn’t a violation of the ethics code, reports TimesLIVE.
“The application of sections of the code were applied so narrowly that it excludes the minister’s son as an unduly beneficiary on the basis that he’s an adult and not dependent on Dr Mkhize financially. This finding is seemingly at odds with the spirit of the code and provisions of it by this narrow application,” she said.
Daily Maverick reports that Gwarube said the outcomes of the Hawks investigation now under way would be closely monitored. She said the purpose of the code was to create public trust and confidence in public representatives and to protect the integrity of Parliament. When approached for comment, the ANC in Parliament said, “no comment from caucus”.
Committee co-chairpersons Bekizwe Nkosi and Lydia Moshodi emphasised that the finding was confined to the ethics code. According Netwerk24, the findings included that Thamsanqa does not qualify as an immediate family member as defined by the code “as the son is an adult man who is not financially dependent on the member (Mkhize)”. While the SIU found Mkhize benefited from private electrical work performed by a company, 4-way Maintenance, to his house for payment effected by Digital Vibes, the MPs found that Thamsanqa liaised with 4-way Maintenance and was responsible for the bill.
However, Business Day reports that exoneration by the committee does not end Mkhize’s woes. The SIU accuses him of unlawful and improper conduct. He denies the accusations, and has approached the Gauteng High Court to have them set aside.
Yesterday (Wednesday) Digital Vibes and 33 others were due to hear the verdict of the Special Tribunal in civil proceedings instituted by the SIU, which accuses the beneficiaries of unjustified enrichment. The SIU has asked the tribunal to review and set aside the Digital Vibes contract and it also seeks repayment of the R150m.
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