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Digital Vibes: Full responses from Dedani Mkhize, Mdu Mthethwa and Protus Sokhela

Illustrative image | Sources from left: Dedani Mkhize. (Photo: Flickr / GCIS) | Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, pictured with Tahera Mather and Naadhira Mitha (far right with glasses) on 26 March 2019. (Photo: Facebook) | Sthoko Mkhize. (Photo: Facebook) | Gallo Images / Darren Stewart / Waldo Swiegers)

Below are the full responses from Dedani Mkhize, Mdu Mthethwa and Protus Sokhela in response to several rounds of queries and engagements regarding their alleged roles in the distribution of monies linked to the Department of Health's (DoH) Digital Vibes contract. The feedback reached us between 6 and 8 July 2021.

Dedani Mkhize’s full response:

“Dear Mr Myburgh

I can confirm that during the years 2019 & 2020, All Out Trading transacted with Mr Protus Sokhela. Mr Sokhela, an established agriculturist & well known farmer, approached me to buy various stock ranging from Amanguni to beef masters to sheep. In some instances I referred Mr Sokhela to even other sellers as he bought a lot of livestock either for himself or as he indicated for other clients. This is very common in our industry. In fact, the acquainting & on selling of livestock is how we make profit.

I have disclosed the benefit I received from Ms Tahera Mather which was an amount of R300 000 & cash that she had gifted me as someone whom I related with on a personal level. I did not have any dealings or arrangements  with Digital Vibes. I did not know about Digital Vibes until it broke in the news. As I’ve previously advised, Ms Mather & I associated at a personal level & she had gifted me from 2015. This was never informed by who my parents are. We had a friendship independent of Drs Zweli & May Mkhize. I could speak to her confidentially & get any advice & assistance I required, & which she could provide me with. If this relationship was based on government contracts, it begs the question why she would have associated with me in the same manner even when Mkhize was not in government. I do not account to my father about my relationships & who I associate with, I have never had to discuss my association with him with Ms Mather up until this digital vibes saga when he was seeking clarity about the allegations on newspapers. It must be acknowledged that I am an independent adult who  is married & has a family of his own. I do not do any government tenders nor do I associate with people based on my father’s position. On the contrary I have lived a life independent of them. My focus is farming & agriculture. My wife & I in 2019 also decided to venture into the beauty therapy space. All our business have been conscious attempts to move me as far away as is possible from any activity of government contracts, as I do not want to be associated with my father’s political life or career. That has been my siblings & I’s sole modus operandi.

Mr Sokhela continues to acquire livestock from us. He does so directly or refers people to me & I have appreciated his business. I have no details to hide in so far as my buying & selling of livestock as these are fully recorded & can be accounted for. However as I have already written to the SIU, deposed to an affidavit & have indicated my availability to engage further with them should they wish, I think it would be inappropriate for me to then offer you such details for your consumption rather than following an official investigation process which I have committed myself to fully cooperate with.

I further clarify that I do not know nor I have I ever had any dealings with Mr Mdu Mthethwa. I have checked with Mr Sokhela if he is aware of such a person & he has confirmed that that is his business associates. He further confirmed that he also purchased livestock on his behalf from him & various other farmers. All livestock acquisition that was done by Mr Sokhela from me are invoiced directly to his farming entity therefore that is why I would not have any knowledge of Mr Mthethwa or his company.

I wish to emphasise that while I do not have anything to hide in this regard. I still categorically state that I did not receive any “kickbacks” or corrupt payments from digital vibes. I have already formally informed the SIU that should the gifts that I have received from Ms Mather since 2015 be proven to have been from irregular state contracts, I am prepared to repay such monies directly to the state. In actual fact I have already messaged Ms Mather about this & she indicated that she will revert to me, she still hasn’t. But I stand ready to fully cooperate with the SIU.

On monies relating to the acquisition of livestock by Mr Sokhela, these were purely business transactions.

(Mkhize added the following in response to follow-up queries)

“Hi Pieter, I think you are now pushing your luck with you new quiz. I’ve answered all your quiz an I can see u now trying to bring a “new angle” so you can have a story. I’ll send your new quiz to my lawyers tomorrow. But u must know that I decide how I spend money that I have worked hard for. I can’t account to you if I chowed the money or used it for another business and there’s nothin illegal about that. The fact is up to today I sell livestock and other farming produce. I choose when to put money back to the business or see how else I can use it. U need to respect that much. This obsession of trying to make me look like I took digital vibes money is just crazy. Ive bn open about money I got from T as a gift an im ready to pay that back. So its wrong to undermine me as if I get my money from Mkhize’s government positions. Ai cut, that’s not right! Gdnite”

Mdu Mthethwa’s full response:

“I have shared your questions with my legal representatives and based on legal advice received I want to firstly deal with your choice of words: you say that money was “forwarded” from Digital Vibes through my company to All Out Trading.  You further state that my company was used as a “slush fund to distribute illicit payments”. It is regrettable that your questions alone attempt to insinuate that I laundered money from Digital Vibes to various companies. I want to reject this false insinuation in the strongest terms.

I never “forwarded” money or gave “kickbacks” to anyone through my company, as you allege. I have never given money to Dedani Mkhize or his wife. I do not know them and have never interacted with any member of the Mkhize family. It would thus not make sense for me to pay kickbacks, as u allege, to parties I do not know, have never met and have no relationship or interaction with. All monies earned by my company, Mateta, from Digital Vibes were used for both my daily personal activities and long term investment purposes.

It is also unfortunate that the narrative of your articles since February 2020 has been to unfairly link my wife to Dr Mkhize as if there is a corrupt relationship between him and us. It is not a hidden fact that my wife worked at Luthuli House as a junior employee. She was never close neither did she associate with Dr Mkhize. There was never any close interaction whether personally or officially. The use of our pictures in your articles is therefore disingenuous and hurtful at the least.  She once took pictures with Dr Mkhize like any South African would when they come across a leader and public figure.

We therefore want to inform you Sir, that my wife and I have no relationship with Dr Mkhize or any of his family members, including his son. We do not even have his direct mobile number. Even when I worked with with Digital Vibes doing the work of Health, I did not directly communicate or interact with Dr Mkhize, as the Minister of Health.

In 2020 I took a decision to venture into a farming business as it had always been my dream to focus on this sector. I made a decision not to just spend my money but get into long terms investment that I wanted to grow in. I was assisted by my senior, Mr Sokhela, who has been helping identify suitable land and source the livestock from different farming entities. We take Mr Sokhela as a father figure to us. He’s a seasoned farmer who is well known and respected in kzn for his farming experience. He has really helped me in saving money and getting very good livestock to farm and grow. We would agree on the amount and type of livestock I would buy depending on how much I wanted to invest, then he would source it for me from different entities or people in KZN.  I also want to clearly state that all the monies invested into my farming project were my own earnings and profits made from my company, Mateta, for work done with Digital Vibes.

In my farming investment and when buying livestock, the focus  is to ensure that I get good and healthy livestock at reasonable prices. It has never been an issue for me to demand details of who the farmers or companies are, that we were buying cows from. There was never any reason to do background checks on who the farmers are as it now seems to be your line of questioning. that would be an unreasonable expectation to have. What I can confirm is that I got value for money paid at all times and I am grateful for Bab Sokhela’s assistance because I benefited through his experience.

Lastly, we note with concern that despite our full cooperation with the SIU investigation and having provided all information requested to date, there is still an intention to create a false narrative that not only compromises the SIU investigation but will unfairly damage my reputation. Our understanding is that you have been interacting with the SIU, and by now you should given all information or allegations to them for investigation.

We also do not want to keep interacting with you then be seen to be compromising the SIU investigation. We are continuously engaging with them and are more than prepared to answer to any law enforcement agency. We therefore request that you be patient, recognise this process and await the outcome of the report.”

Protus Sokhela’s full response:

“Hello. From the beginning, I would like to dispel any notion and allegation that associates me with digital vibes. I have never conducted any business, negotiated any receipt of work or funds from Digital Vibes or any of its directors and employees. I have also never derived any benefits from the Digital Vibes contract with the Department of Health.

When I received yours questions, I contacted Mdu to ask him how he was involved with Digital Vibes, he told me that this is the company he worked with that was being investigated. Prior to that I did not have such details. I have never known the details of Mdu’s business in Johannesburg. I was just aware that he was involved in government contracts works. In actual fact when he approached me and said there was an investigation into some COVID contracts he was involved in, I assumed that this involved PPE,  because I had seen last year that a lot of the ppe suppliers were being investigated.

To assist you with background, Mdu approached me as his farming business associate and mentor. He asked me to urgently assist him to disinvest in the farming project that he was involved in. This was a few months ago, around April 2021 if I’m not mistaken. At the time Mdu asked for an urgent meeting with me and was accompanied by his  wife. They advised me that the farming venture that they had been pursuing now had to be put to a halt. In that meeting, Mdu opened up to me and informed me that a company that he was working with was being investigated by the Health Department and SIU. He informed me that they had been doing work during COVID-19 and were now a subject of investigation. Mdu together with his family members then advised me that they had been advised by their lawyers that they needed to negotiate upfront with the state to understand if they were expected to repay any of the profits made.  And in order to do so, they needed to make sure that there were funds available.

At the meeting, Mdu and his family also disclosed some private and personal issues that I need not get into but these made me appreciate the seriousness of the situation and the request that was being made to me. I committed to assisting them where I could. Mdu advised me that he wanted to dispose of some the livestock that he had acquired as part of his farming investment. I warned him however that given this urgency he may not realise much profit.

In 2020 Mdu acquired a significant number of livestock and I think he is best placed to disclose all the details as the owner. I had merely assisted him in securing quality and reasonable livestock from various farmers in and around KZN that are reputable and can confirm based on your question that one of them was Dedani Mkhize. During the course of 2020, Mdu or any of his family members would contact me and request that I assist them in securing livestock of a specific amount, I would then (and in some instances instruct my employees who do this for me to) search for livestock. There is a method of how this is done depending on what the farmer wants to achieve with his livestock. Once this is done, I would give feedback to them.

Without giving too many details regarding Mdu’s farming transactions,  I can confirm that according to my records Mdu purchased livestock from four different sources. These included Dedani. All of them were delivered and Mdu can directly confirm that with you. It’s also important to record that he is not the only person that bought livestock from these sources. Even some of my livestock has been purchased from them, I am certain that the purchase of R170 thousand must have been the case.

Personally I take a lot of pride in livestock farming and agriculture as a whole. I have been involved in this business for more than 35 years of my life. Because of the value I believe can be derived especially by black people in owning land and putting it to good agricultural use, one of my passions is assisting new farmers in establishing themselves. I have assisted many farmers around kzn to turn around their farms to make them productive. I also assist them in networking with different markets so that their fresh and organic produce can be sold and they realise profit. I am a firm believer in land and food security. That is my basis of supporting people like Mdu. While I now understand his current circumstances and pressures, I am saddened for him and his family that they have put on hold this great farming investment that he had started.

You ask me about many bank transactions I am not aware of. Unfortunately I do not carry my bank statements with me. Also I think I would want to limit my responses to your initial queries. Can I rather suggest that you confirm with the people whose account the money sits with who the source of those funds are.

I’m sure you would appreciate that as a private citizen I have the right to trade and occupation. If I am being investigated I will definitely avail myself but I think it’s inappropriate for us to engage any further on this matter.”

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