Former health minister Zweli Mkhize told students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had still not provided him with evidence that implicated him in the Digital Vibes matter.
Mkhize and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta)Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma have said they will stand for candidacy at the ANC’s December elective conference.
Mkhize has been nominated for the position in KZN and is believed to have support in all provinces.
He resigned as health minister in August 2021 when he was implicated in the irregular awarding of contracts to Digital Vibes, which was linked to people who worked with him at the department, the Cogta Department and the ANC. He has gone to court in a bid to have the SIU report reviewed and set aside.
On Tuesday night, Mkhize told students at an event that he had told President Cyril Ramaphosa that he (Mkhize) could not be in his Cabinet as he was challenging the report, and the unit reported directly to the president.
Mkhize said that when the auditor-general had flagged irregularities with the Digital Vibes contract, the department had started an internal investigation, but was told that the SIU would be taking over the probe.
“The investigation was completed and one thing that stood out in the report that I had was that there were some irregularities in how the contract was handed out. I could see that there were overcharges based on the report.
“The SIU then said, don’t continue with disciplining individuals or recovering the money, and that they wanted the report.” Mkhize said that later he was invited by the SIU to an interview, and he explained that he had nothing to do with the contract, and they said they were of the view that he had handed out the contract and had instructed staff on what to do with the tender.
“I told them this is not true. When the disciplinary process started in the department, nothing emerged from those hearings about fraud, or that I had been involved in giving an instruction on who to give the contract to.”
Mkhize said another allegation by the SIU was that Parliament had instructed him to give the contract to the Government Communication and Information System.
“They quote the date and say I was present in that meeting and I transgressed a resolution of Cabinet, and on that basis there was a breach of the Constitution, the oath of office and code of ethics. I said show me the resolution because it should be available
“They said the resolution is classified. I said we can get it declassified by the same president who appointed me. They said they would do that, and some time later, when this was not happening, I asked for all the resolutions to be declassified, and the SIU apologised and said they don’t have the documents.”
His supporters say the delays in the investigation are deliberate and aimed at preventing Mkhize from contesting next month’s elective conference.
The SIU found that the department irregularly awarded the R141 million media awareness campaign contract for the National Health Insurance (NHI) and another R125m contract for Covid-19 when he was the department’s head.
An SIU report tabled before Scopa (the standing committee on public accounts) said Mkhize had approved two budget applications for Digital Vibes for the NHI communication.