Scorpio

SCORPIO EXCLUSIVE

R1m from Digital Vibes deal bankrolled hair salon, nail boutique for Minister Zweli Mkhize’s son, daughter-in-law

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)

More than R1m was siphoned off from the Department of Health’s R150-million Digital Vibes deal to help establish a new hair salon and an up-market nail franchise owned by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s son and daughter-in-law.

In December 2020 a brand new Tammy Taylor Nails franchise opened its doors in Pietermaritzburg’s Midlands Mall.

On the day of the grand launch party, a beaming Sthoko Mkhize (34), Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s daughter-in-law, posed for a picture in front of her new business.

She stood on a plush carpet that led guests through the store’s entrance to a table laden with cheese platters and other treats. 

Behind the snacks were several bottles of Moët & Chandon Champagne on a purpose-built shelf bearing the famous French bubbly’s logo. 

Another picture shows Zweli Mkhize’s son Dedani (33) sitting at a pedicure station, clearly enjoying the benefits of his wife’s new shop. 

“Thank you for attending our successful launch, here’s to a beautiful start,” the salon’s Instagram account later posted.

But the glitz and excitement belied a disturbing truth about Sthoko Mkhize’s new venture. 

Following months of investigation, Daily Maverick’s Scorpio can now reveal that at least R650,000 that flowed from the Department of Health’s (DoH’s) allegedly corrupt Digital Vibes contract went towards the start-up costs for Sthoko Mkhize’s Tammy Taylor Nails outlet. 

Sthoko Mkhize at her new nail salon’s opening event in December 2020. (Photo: Supplied)

We’ve also uncovered monies totalling at least R446,000 that had been diverted from the R150-million DoH contract to the account of a new hair salon, Gold Ace Cuts and Curls.

This new business, co-owned by Dedani Mkhize, is located in a smaller shopping centre just around the corner from his wife’s nail franchise.

Some of the proceeds of the DoH contract that had ended up in the account of one of Dedani Mkhize’s companies also covered expenses for his farm outside Pietermaritzburg, our investigation has shown.

Dedani Mkhize enjoying the opening of his wife’s new up-market nail treatment boutique. (Photo: Supplied)

Money stemming from the DoH contract covered a few personal bills too, including at least one monthly instalment for a BMW SUV.

The starting point for our months-long investigation is the funds that Digital Vibes received from the DoH for its contentious National Health Insurance (NHI) and Covid-19 communications services. 

Between late January 2020 and February 2021, the DoH paid Digital Vibes R150-million in 19 instalments of varying values.

We followed a good deal of the R150-million to a web of first-, second- and third-tier recipients. 

Our analysis of scores of transactions between these entities has led us to this disturbing conclusion: during the worst health crisis in South Africa’s recent memory, money from a vital contract awarded by our national health department was allegedly laundered towards new businesses set up by the health minister’s son and daughter-in-law.

It is now also clear that at least two of the first-tier recipients of the Digital Vibes loot, namely Mateta Projects and Composit Trade and Investments 02, at least partly acted as alleged slush funds for the Mkhize couple.

Dedani Mkhize at his new business, Gold Ace Cuts and Curls, an up-market hair salon and café in Pietermaritzburg. (Photo: Supplied)

Scorpio’s latest exposé firmly places us in greenfields territory as far as the Digital Vibes matter is concerned — to our knowledge, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and other law enforcement bodies have not yet probed the monies that went to the Mkhizes’ businesses. 

We will unpack five examples of how funds originating from the Digital Vibes contract were funnelled through an array of accounts before ending up with these new businesses.

Dedani Mkhize rejected all notions that he had been the beneficiary of alleged money laundering linked to the Digital Vibes deal. 

“This obsession of trying to make me look like I took Digital Vibes money is just crazy,” he told us in early July. 

In the same breath, however, he seemingly conceded that the idea may not be all that ludicrous. 

“I have already formally informed the SIU that should the gifts that I have received from Ms [Tahera] Mather since 2015 be proven to have been from irregular state contracts, I am prepared to repay such monies directly to the state.”

His wife, Sthoko Mkhize, did not respond to any of our queries regarding her new nail franchise.

Cash sequence 1: The Composit link

The first string of transactions on our radar was kicked off by a R7.8-million payment from the DoH to Digital Vibes on 15 April 2020. 

This would have been for one of the first invoices Digital Vibes submitted for its Covid-19 services after its contract had been unlawfully amended to include work outside of its original scope, namely the NHI. 

About a week after it received the money, Digital Vibes forwarded R874,000 to Composit Trade and Investments 02. This entity’s sole director is Tahera Mather, Zweli Mkhize’s longtime personal spokesperson and one of the alleged masterminds behind the Digital Vibes scheme.

Mather did not respond to queries.

Tahera Mather and Zweli Mkhize in 2017. (Photo: Supplied)

In all, Digital Vibes paid R20.5-million to Composit throughout 2020 and early 2021. 

On 2 May 2020, just over a week after Composit had received the R874,000 from Digital Vibes, Composit transferred R300,000 to All Out Trading, a business registered in 2003 that currently lists Dedani Mkhize as its only director. 

“I have disclosed [to the SIU] 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,” Dedani Mkhize told us. 

“I did not have any dealings or arrangements with Digital Vibes,” he claimed, notwithstanding the evidence that the money had indeed come from Digital Vibes. 

On the same day that Dedani Mkhize’s All Out Trading received R300,000 from Mather’s Composit Trade and Investments — money that effectively came from the DoH via Digital Vibes — Mkhize forwarded R146,000 from the All Out Trading account to Gold Ace Cuts and Curls. 

This is the name of the hair salon and café Dedani Mkhize co-owns with another Pietermaritzburg businessman. 

The business was registered in March 2020, shortly before it started receiving its first funds linked to the DoH contract.

However, the salon only opened its doors to customers in July 2021.

Dedani Mkhize’s new hair salon has attracted a few famous visitors, including Duduzane Zuma. (Photo: Supplied)

On 2 May 2020, Dedani Mkhize also paid nearly R22,000 from the All Out Trading account to cover an instalment for a BMW X3. 

This payment was also bankrolled with the R300,000 in DoH cash that had been passed on to All Out Trading via Digital Vibes and Composit Trade and Investments 02.

Cash sequence 2: Sokhela and the cattle

Our second example introduces a new roleplayer in the broader Digital Vibes saga, namely KwaZulu-Natal businessman Protus Sokhela.

We start with a series of three payments from the DoH to Digital Vibes on different dates in May 2020, which netted the firm nearly R30-million. 

On 22 May, roughly a week after the last of the three DoH payments, Digital Vibes began transferring large amounts of money to Mateta Projects, a company owned by Mdu Mthethwa. 

As we’ve previously reported, Mateta Projects was one of the first-tier recipients of funds from Digital Vibes. The company received R10.5-million during the period in which Digital Vibes executed the DoH contract. 

The bulk of this amount, about R6.35-million, was transferred to Mateta over a period of just one week in late May 2020, after Digital Vibes had pocketed the payments of nearly R30-million from the DoH. 

In mid-June 2020, with its account flush with cash from Digital Vibes, Mateta began moving money to an entity called Sirela Trading. 

Mateta made two payments of R1-million each to Sirela on 16 June, followed by another R1-million the following day, and R300,000 on 18 June. 

In other words, by 18 June, Sirela sat with R3.3-million in money that can be traced all the way back to the DoH’s Digital Vibes contract.

In September 2020, Sirela in turn transferred R170,000 to Dedani Mkhize’s All Out Trading. On that same day, R100,000 was moved from the All Out Trading account to Dedani’s hair salon, Gold Ace Cuts and Curls. 

Sirela Trading’s director, Sokhela, has longstanding ties to the Mkhize family.

KZN businessman Protus Sokhela. (Photo: Voigts Group)

Along with Zweli Mkhize’s wife, Dr May Mkhize, he is listed as a trustee of the ZLM Trust, which owns the Bryanston property that featured in our earlier exposé regarding maintenance work bankrolled by Digital Vibes. 

Sokhela is also listed as a co-director of Tusokuhle Farming, Dedani Mkhize’s farming entity. 

Sokhela has strongly denied that his company, Sirela, was used as a conduit for illicit cash flows from Digital Vibes to Dedani Mkhize. 

According to Sokhela, Sirela received money from Mthethwa’s Mateta Projects because he (Sokhela) had agreed to help Mthethwa with cattle purchases. 

“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,” stated Sokhela. 

As regards the R170,000 that went from Sirela to Dedani Mkhize’s All Out Trading, Sokhela had this to say: “Even some of my livestock has been purchased from them [Dedani Mkhize]; I am certain that the purchase of R170,000 must have been the case.” 

Dedani Mkhize and Mdu Mthethwa both echoed the cattle story. Their full accounts can be accessed here.

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

Cash cycle 3: Mateta moves more money

In the previous cash cycle we looked at, money moved from the DoH to Digital Vibes, then from Digital Vibes to Mateta Projects, from Mateta Projects to Sirela, from Sirela to All Out Trading, and, finally, from All Out Trading to Dedani Mkhize’s hair salon. 

In the remaining case studies, the money follows a direct route to the Mkhizes’ entities once it reaches Mateta. 

On 18 June 2020, the same day on which Mthethwa’s company paid R300,000 to Sirela, it also transferred R70,000 directly to Dedani Mkhize’s All Out Trading.

A further R150,000 from Mateta landed in All Out Trading’s account on 27 June 2020. On this very same day, All Out Trading moved R100,000 to Dedani Mkhize’s hair salon. 

Gold Ace Cuts and Curls is located in a smaller shopping centre near Pietermaritzburg’s Midlands Mall. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Mateta paid another R150,000 to All Out Trading on 29 June 2020. Four days later, All Out Trading used some of that money for farming equipment worth R42,000, presumably for Dedani Mkhize’s farm.

Cash cycle 4: As simple as can be

The penultimate and final cash flows represent perhaps the simplest examples of how Digital Vibes’ alleged DoH loot was passed on to the benefit of the minister’s son and daughter-in-law. 

We’ll start with R4.7-million from the DoH that landed in Digital Vibes’ account on 29 October 2020. 

Six days later, on 4 November, Digital Vibes paid R364,454 to Mateta Projects. 

Wasting no time, Mateta forwarded R200,000 to Dedani Mkhize’s All Out Trading on the same day it received the payment from Digital Vibes. 

Finally, and also on 4 November, All Out Trading transferred R100,000 to Gold Ace Cuts and Curls.

By this point in time, and factoring in all the previous cash cycles, Dedani Mkhize’s new salon had received at least R446,000 in funds that can be linked to the Digital Vibes contract.

Mateta’s Mdu Mthethwa has strongly denied that he had helped to launder some of the Digital Vibes cash for the benefit of the minister’s son and daughter-in-law. 

“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,” he stated in a response received in early July 2021.

However, if the previous cash flow examples have not provided sufficient reason to doubt his denial, the final one almost certainly will.

Cash cycle 5: Nailing it

Throughout November 2020, the Instagram account for the Tammy Taylor outlet in the Midlands Mall announced that it would be “#openingsoon!!”.

Unbeknown to the boutique’s followers and would-be clients, the business was busy being put together with proceeds from the DoH’s Digital Vibes contract. 

Here is how it worked:

On 13 November 2020, the DoH made a payment of R11.1-million to Digital Vibes. 

Ten days later, on 24 November, Digital Vibes transferred R726,450 to Mdu Mthethwa’s company, Mateta Projects. 

Again wasting no time, Mateta Projects paid R650,098 to a company called Adluli, also on 24 November. 

Scorpio has confirmed that Adluli was the main contractor responsible for the shop-fitting and other work on Sthoko Mkhize’s Tammy Taylor Nails franchise. 

We have also confirmed that the money it received from Mateta Projects was indeed for work on the very same store. 

It is not clear exactly how much money, in total, was spent to establish Sthoko’s nail salon.

One source familiar with the franchise model for Tammy Taylor Nails suggested that the R650,000 may have covered a little less than half of the required start-up costs. 

Whatever the case may be, it is clear that a significant portion of the money needed to establish the business was covered with funds that came from the DoH’s Digital Vibes deal.

Sthoko Mkhize’s new up-market nail boutique was at least partly bankrolled with money from the Department of Health’s allegedly corrupt Digital Vibes contract. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Together with the money that had been funnelled to her husband’s own salon, at least R1.1-million had therefore been shifted from the Digital Vibes deal to businesses proudly owned by the minister’s immediate family. DM

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All Comments 54

  • Pieter-Louis Myburgh, you deserve a statue on Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.
    Excellent work once again.

    Where in the world is Cyril? Playing hide and seek with the truth. Shame.

    • Major ANC problem. A Treasurer is expected to do all manner of dodgy deals for the party, and with everyone’s tacit consent. It goes against the grain to chuck someone loyal like that under the bus, for the sake of sham ethics.

      • Read the article on News24 by Tebogo Khaas titled:
        “Mkhize scandal -The moral dyslexia facing the ANC and Ramaphosa”

        It exposes Zweli Mkhize for exactly what & who he is. It’s frightening to think that this guy was/is a future a contender for president of the country….

        • Frightening but not surprising. Seems to be the way of the world sadly…Moral scumbags rise to the top of the political ladder and get away with bad behavior. Not just here….everywhere – look at the USA ….look at Brazil,Venezuela, Philippines…even ( in my opinion) the UK! The world appears to have lost its Moral Compass!

  • Excellent work! Thank you for exposing these scumbags.
    Clearly this lot have never heard of a paper trail; things tend to fall apart fairly quickly when greed, arrogance & stupidity take over.

    Given the disastrous state of our public health system, the “lack of funds” by the DOH to pay nurses & doctors, & with so many people having no access to anything resembling decent health care, this is absolutely appalling & infuriating. Meanwhile Cyril’s still sitting on the report…..

    The bumped up low life, Mkhize junior recently had a lot to say about the SIU treating him unfairly. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

  • While thousands of South Africans are dying from Covid, this is what the Minister of Health and his family are busy with – does it get any more grotesque?

  • The story that just keeps on giving!

    Seems as if my dailymaverick subscription has more impact on holding government accountable than my vote…

    Well done dailymaverick and co

  • Does the ANC have a training school for dodgy contracts and how to open front companies and manipulate slush funds. Seems all to familiar.

    • If they do have such a school, it’s not producing too many successful crooks; because many of them seem to be getting caught out! 🤡😂👍😷

      As Hiram says “. . . things tend to fall apart fairly quickly when greed, arrogance & stupidity take over.

  • Well done Peter. It’s disgusting these activities continue whilst in the grip of a global pandemic. Have they no shame?
    One thing for sure, My subscription is much better spent than my taxes. Now, where’s Cyril?

  • With such impeccable reporting and most probably supported with evidence, can this hard work be sold to the NPA to fast track the prosecution?

  • Brilliant work. I presume you received your salary check from the Hawks since you are doing all the work for them! How do they know how to set up these money laundering structures. Either it is an inate skill the cadres are born with, they learn it from each other at NEC coffee breaks or there are complicit professionals who also need tracking down.

  • “Scorpio’s latest exposé firmly places us in greenfields territory ..” most definately, excellent work Pieter-Louis Myburgh and Scorpio.

    The SIU will catchup, eventually, if ever.

    • All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident (Arthur Schopenhauer) – We are going through stages 1 & 2 …….

  • Thank you for a marvelous synopsis. I sometimes wonder if all this “evidence” would be uncovered if it weren’t for responsible journalists like yourself, but at the same time I worry that publishing this information will in some way be used to the advantage of the accused. Sort of letting the cat out of the bag ?
    Please keep up the great work, it is so much appreciated.

  • …and Mkhize’s punishment is to sit on his backside at home on full salary. I can only assume the BEE BILLIONAIRE finds nothing wrong with the DIGITAL VIBES scam. As for the SIU and NPA …

  • If the evidence is there where is the NPA. They should be demanding all the facts and proceeding with prosecution immediately. The lack of prosecution of many of these cases smells of political interference/expediency!

    • Bruce, the Digital Vibes matter is before the Special Tribunal, as was reported a few days ago. Hopefully the contract will be set aside and the process to recover all funds will commence, which will see the criminal matters against the individuals formally implicated proceeding in earnest.

  • Pieter – Louis Myburgh you are a star! Well done indeed but be careful of your safety! The saga is sickening- it shows such callous disregard for normal decency. Could all your evidence be used for a class action case against the government for its failure to properly protect its citizens from a dangerous epidemic for which these funds were supposed to be utilized?

    • Well done Scorpio and Pieter-Louis. I shudder to think how the NHI will become the next big looting scheme at the cost of health services in SA. I remember how the health minister, Mkhize, assured the nation that the NHI will be free from corruption as there would be strict checks and balances, and all the while he is already promoting looting and corruption of the Department of Health. I fear this phenomenon is endemic in the ANC and nothing they touch will be free from conniving, looting and corruption. We should search for solutions in the direction of maximal privatization, from SARS right to the top and bottom.

      • Agreed. I predict that, come national elections, NHI will be an ANC trump card. Look how well “we” did handling the Covid crisis (facts notwithstanding)? I agree with the concept of health for all having worked for the UK NHS that actually works, despite problems that always arise (and then are dealt with). But our own NHS will be cocked up by the ANC’s inevitable combination of incompetence, jobs for pals, graft and corruption.

  • Pieter-Louis Myburgh and all the investigative journalists never cease to amaze me how they unearth all the ongoing corruption in this country. It sickens me that nothing seems to happen to any of these scum bags.

    • With one difference, the gangsters in the Sopranos are shrewd & smart. This lot are a bunch of imbecilic buffoons who’ve sold themselves & the country for nothing more than jive-ass clothing, sneakers, shiny shoes & fancy cars. And of course the odd nail bar.

  • The pigs are at the trough again. South Africa will become just another failed African state unless Ramaphosa and the ANC reverse the trend of allowing the corrupt and the thieving to simply fade quietly into the background. We need to see dismissals and prosecutions. Time to strap on a pair, Mr President.

  • Just ugh. My tax money used for hair and nail boutiques instead of health, education, infrastructure…
    Makes me feel sick.

  • Pieter-Louis, you and the other investigative journalists leave many readers of DM awestruck with the way in which you unearth facts and present them in such a readable form. Certainly you have my thanks for what you are doing.

  • Pieter-Louis, I am curious, what did Digital vibes invoice for? What is written on their actual invoices to the department. I’ve looked at the math of this matter. In the 14 months from Jan 2020 to Feb 2021 there were roughly 304 working days. If one uses an 8 hour working day it means that Digital Vibes charged the government roughly R62,000.00 an hour. What could they possibly do that is worth so much money?!?!

    Secondly, have you looked into their status with SARS? How much in tax payments are due with regards to the R150million and have these taxes been paid?

    Then lastly, were there any invoices for these payments made to Mateta Projects and if so, what was the subject of these invoices and what is Mateta’s status with SARS?

    So many people see SARS as the big villain targeting honest SA tax payers but I believe SARS could be our strongest weapon in taking down the crooks.