South Africa

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SIU secures order to freeze R22-million in funds linked to Digital Vibes scandal 

SIU secures order to freeze R22-million in funds linked to Digital Vibes scandal 
Illustrative image | Sources: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook) / Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, Tahera Mather (left), Naadhira Mitha (black top, glasses) on 26 March 2019. (Photo: Facebook) / ‘Pelo', the 3D Nguni cow character that Digital Vibes paid a local animation studio to create.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has frozen just over R22-million in cash and investments belonging to communications’ company Digital Vibes, which is at the centre of a corruption scandal within the National Department of Health that has implicated the department’s political head, Dr Zweli Mkhize. 

On Wednesday the SIU, an independent statutory body with a primary mandate to investigate allegations of corruption in government, announced that on 17 June it had applied for and was granted a freeze order by Judge Lebogang Modiba, who sits on the Special Tribunal, based in Oakdene, Johannesburg.

According to a statement released by SIU spokesman Kaizer Kganyago, the seizure of R22,001,884.54 was linked to the entities and individuals that had received payments from Digital Vibes (Pty) Ltd which, until recently, ran a Covid-19 media campaign for the department of health. 

The scandal has led to Dr Zweli Mkhize taking “special leave” from official duties after it was revealed by Daily Maverick’s Scorpio that his family had close ties with Digital Vibes alleged mastermind Tahera Mather and had benefited materially from that relationship.  

The order prohibits Digital Vibes, Tahera Mather, Naadhira Mitha, Suhaila Mather, Suhaila Mather Consulting (Pty) Ltd, Amods Attorneys, WT Graphics and Designs (Pty) Ltd, and Strategeewhiz (Pty) Ltd from accessing the funds held in bank and investment accounts.  

(See Scorpio article  ‘Digital Vibes ‘owner’ worked at a fuel station during R82m Department of Health Covid-19 contract here)

“Though the SIU investigation in the appointment of Digital Vibes is ongoing, the preliminary investigations have revealed clear evidence exposing two highly irregular and unlawful transactions,” said Kganyago.

Two transactions have been flagged. The first involved the department’s procurement process to award a contract in 2019 to Digital Vibes to provide communication services related to the controversial and hugely expensive National Health Insurance (NHI) envisioned by the state, which will effectively nationalise and centralise health services and lead to the shuttering of private medical insurance in its current form. 

The second transaction occurred in 2020 when Digital Vibes was “appointed” in respect of a Covid-19 awareness campaign without any competitive bidding or other procurement processes. The SIU said this transaction “was merely brought in as an extension to the contract between the Department and Digital Vibes in respect of the NHI media campaign, in circumstances where such an extension was irregular and unlawful”.  

The SIU said the health department paid “a total of approximately R150-million to Digital Vibes”, of which R25-million was linked to the NHI media campaign and the difference of R125-million was in respect of its Covid-19 communications service appointment.

“Despite civil legal outcomes, the SIU investigation into the affairs of the Department is ongoing. In line with the SIU Act, evidence pointing to criminal conduct will be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority for further action,” said Kganyago.

The SIU will now launch review proceedings in the Special Tribunal within the next 30 working days, and also seek an order against Digital Vibes and other involved parties to pay back any money received as a consequence of the appointment of Digital Vibes by the department. DM

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  • Tim Price says:

    Arrest the protagonists, freeze their personal assets and let them cool their heals in jail.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    Good show – that was quick! now just to get the remaining 60M odd or orange overalls for those involved.

  • Coen Gous says:

    So what the hell happened to the rest, R150 million minus R22 million? And still we wait, and wait, and wait, for their report, when all the hard work was already done by DM. Is this just an attempt to keep the media quiet?

  • Johan Buys says:

    Wonder what the VAT and Income Tax status of the primary and subcontracted entities? SARS is certainly looking

  • Coen Gous says:

    In an article just publised by News24, the later was voted in a survey conducted by Reuters and BBC News, was voted by news readers as the most trusted news medium in South Africa. Followed by eNCA, SABC News, and Sunday Times. Even regional and local newspapers are more trusted by respondents than Daily Maverick. So, how does one interpret this? DM, can I trust you? Is this article above true? In all honesty, I am stunned! Sunday Times?, Even News24, the newspaper group likely created by the Broederbond. If this is what news followers think, I have lost trust in South Africans as a whole. In a good article currently still running on DM by Fran Beighton, I made the point the media skould start working together, rather than competing against each other, in order to make the work of investigative journalists more effective. But with this article by News24, I am afraid most work by investigative journalists will simply end up in the dustbin. And the Sunday Times and News24 will continue to hijack the stories of DM journalists, claiming it as their own. And then boast about how good they are.
    DM, you are in desperate need for a change in marketing strategy, if you don’t want to loose your journalists to more, much more, mediocre news outlets.

    • Coen Gous says:

      For starters, I believe you should , apart from amaBhungane, form a strategic alliance with Newzroom Africa, which in my opinion has overtaken both eNCA and SABC News yonkers ago in not only quality of news, but quality of delivery by people and news anchors such as Stephen Groottes and several other brilliant anchores, the likes I have never seen at eNCA even at its prime during Anton Harber’s days

    • Alley Cat says:

      Come on… IOL is probably right up there too. Doesn’t mean they are good / honest / trustworthy?? Just popular / greater reach / free…
      ANC wins the majority vote? . Doesn’t mean they are good / honest / trustworthy?? Just popular / greater reach.
      If anything, DM need to promote themselves better. Their title put me off for years until I saw the light. Spread the word people.
      News 24 has some good journos but not close to DM.

  • Stephen Stead says:

    Talk about milking the cash cow

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