'It's unfortunate to find myself entangled in a saga I know nothing of': Zweli Mkhize’s son on Digital Vibes
The son of embattled health minister Zweli Mkhize has broken his silence saying he has “nothing to hide” and claiming the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has not afforded him an opportunity to state his version of events in the Digital Vibes saga.
“I am shocked to say the least that the SIU has not yet bothered to serve me or my lawyers with the court papers it has decided to file. I have had to learn through a media article of all the goings on of an investigation I am supposedly a part of and their efforts to recover R3.8m that I have never ever received,” Dedani Mkhize said in a statement on Friday evening.
His denial came after an earlier TimesLIVE report which stated that Mkhize, and his son had been referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to consider charging them for corruption over “suspicious” payments received from Digital Vibes.
The information is contained in court papers the SIU filed at the Special Tribunal on Thursday, where it is trying to recover R150m that was allegedly unlawfully paid by the Department of Health to Digital Vibes, a company owned by Mkhize’s close associate Tahera Mather.
According to the SIU, Mkhize received R6,720 from Digital Vibes, allegedly for maintenance at a Bryanston property, while his son received R3.8m. These monies allegedly amount to undue gratification as there was no evidence they did work for Digital Vibes.
Mkhize and Dedani are listed among 20 people to whom Digital Vibes paid R90m of the R150m the company received from their contract with the Department of Health, which the SIU contends was unlawful, invalid and has to be set aside.
There was no reasonable evidence why the listed individuals received payments from Digital Vibes, as they could not provide invoices and supporting documents, the investigations revealed.
In her founding affidavit, SIU lead investigator Rajendra Chunilall contends that the evidence they had on the duo constituted offences under several sections of the prevention and combating of corrupt activities act (Precca), and she wanted the NPA to consider bringing charges.
“The following funds directly or indirectly received by these parties from Digital Vibes constitute undue gratification or were transferred for purposes of money laundering or as the proceeds of unlawful activities and derive from the unlawful payments that Digital Vibes received from the [national department of health] NDOH in terms of the impugned transactions, which were made without any proof of goods, works of services (i.e. value) rendered by such parties in exchange for such funds (i.e. these parties were directly or indirectly unduly enriched to the ultimate detriment of the NDOH),” Chunilall contended in her affidavit.
Mkhize is alleged to have pressured senior officials to appoint Digital Vibes for the R150m communications contract.
The SIU is tasked mainly with recovering ill-gotten money from unlawful contracts, but in instances where it believes there is enough evidence for prosecution, it can refer cases to the NPA under sections 4(1)(d) and 4.2.
Defending himself and his family, Dedani said he had never denied having a personal relationship with Mather and “neither have I ever denied that at times our personal relationship has had exchanges of money during the duration of our friendship. Our relationship dates back to 2015.
“None of the monies ever exchanged between myself and Tahera Mather have been connected to the Digital Vibes contract with the Department of Health. It is unfortunate to find myself entangled in a saga I know nothing of.”
He said it was, “highly presumptuous to inadvertently suppose that any past financial exchanges with Tahera Mather have a bearing on the contract in question. I have not benefited a cent from the Digital Vibes contract with the Department of Health and to state this as a fact are scurrilous assumptions.”
He added: “To assume that past financial exchanges mean I benefit in her business dealings [by virtue of being her friend] seems to be a desperate attempt to sensationalise matters.
“I am concerned and disappointed in the manner in which the SIU has dealt with me following its investigations in the Digital Vibes and department of health contract saga. To say that its dealings have been nothing short of unprofessional and biased would be an understatement.”
Frankly, he said, “the SIU report relies on media reporting — not a tested legal process. As an example, I categorically deny ever receiving R3.8m and this submission in the SIU's court papers is false.”
He said from the outset, “when my alleged involvement in the debacle was cited, I voluntarily approached the SIU with the assistance of an attorney offering my availability to co-operate with the investigation process.
“I also informed them of an affidavit I had already deposed dealing with the allegations that had been made in the media. In that same affidavit, I made an offer that if it is proven that I may have unknowingly benefited from an individual who had received funds unlawfully from the state, I would be willing to pay such monies back. The SIU acknowledged receipt of my attorney’s correspondence and affidavit,” he said.
He added that, “I have never received word or engagement from the SIU since that correspondence. To date, no contact has ever been made with me. I have never been interviewed and no further information was requested. I am inclined to believe that the SIU has already made a predetermination on the matter. I have waited to be called to an interview by the SIU and nothing has been forthcoming.”
He believed he had not been afforded an opportunity to be heard.
“My assessment is that this is not in the SIUs interest as doing so may unequivocally rebut the narrative being driven [whether intentionally or unintentionally] that Zweli Mkhize and his family is corrupt and that he used his influence as a minister to benefit himself and his family.
“I have always been proud of the role my father plays in this country but the very same honour has been an added burden on all his children.
“The public scrutiny has not been easy on any of us as his children. We have all tried to completely remove ourselves from any activity that has to do with the state. We have lived private lives and disassociated ourselves with my father's political life and career,” he said.