Criminal charges were laid today, against South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, and the Health Director-General, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, over the R150 million Covid-corruption scandal. The charges were laid by the Democratic Alliance (DA), in relation to the scandal involving Department of Health (DoH) provider ‘Digital Vibes’, a communications firm.

Minister Mkhize allegedly personally signed off on the submission that contained the contract to this company, run and owned by close associates of his.

It was recently reported by the Daily Maverick that its investigative unit, Scorpio, revealed that Digital Vibes made at least two payments settling invoices for maintenance work at a Johannesburg property owned by Minister Zweli Mkhize’s family trust. Digital Vibes also apparently transferred at least R300,000 to a company owned by Mkhize’s son, according to their investigative report.

Soon after this, it was reported that Digital Vibes bought a second-hand 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser for Dedani Mkhize, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s son. 

According to Daily Maverick, Scorpio’s investigation revealed that in May 2020, Digital Vibes transferred R160,000 to a car dealership in Pietermaritzburg for the car in question.

The fact that Minister Mkhize personally signed off on the contract with Digital Vibes, alone is in direct contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (POCCA) Section 3 and specifically Sections 12 and 13 which relate to acts of service offered or accepted in exchange for government contracts and tenders.

In addition to this, the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) explicitly states that the signing off of any contracts is the function of the accounting officer and not the executive authority. Minister Mkhize is the executive authority. Therefore, the Health DG, Dr Buthelezi must also be investigated for his involvement and possible contravention of the PFMA with gross negligence.

DA Shadow Minister of Health, Siviwe Gwarube MP:

“The allegations against Minister Mhkize are incredibly serious. It is unconscionable that President Cyril Ramaphosa does not take action against the Minister – pending the outcome of the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) investigation. The Minister cannot be both a player and a referee in the case concerning him. By remaining in his post while the SIU investigation takes place, he could undermine the integrity of the process and risk undue political influence.

That is why the DA remains resolute in calling for the President to suspend him pending the outcomes of the investigations.

We are also of the view that the processes by both the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the SIU can and should run concurrently. The two arms of the criminal justice system could collaborate and cross-check with one another to get to the bottom of this matter.

Just yesterday, the SIU confirmed that they are investigating over R14 billion in Covid-corruption. The person tasked with leading the response to Covid-19 in the country cannot have allegations of this nature hanging over him.

We call on both agencies – the SIU and the SAPS to conduct their investigation without any fear or favour.

The ball is now firmly in the President’s court.”

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