Corrupt officials must be brought to book

Health minister Zweli Mkhize was placed on special leave while the investigation into Digital Vibes continued.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize was placed on special leave while the investigation into Digital Vibes continued.
Image: FREDDY MAVUNDA

A total of R1.5-trillion. This is how much SA lost between 2014 and 2019, according to a report from a group led by the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Yet more public funds were misappropriated in 2020 thanks to widespread PPE tender fraud committed by people so amoral that they did not care a jot about their country suffering as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unless the culprits are brought to book, SA will continue to be bled by the corrupt.

This is why the forensic investigations into PPE fraud by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) are crucial, not only because they enable the state to recoup money from crooks but also because the unit provides recommendations for disciplinary action against officials as well as for possible criminal  prosecution.

The SIU has been investigating Digital Vibes, the communications company headed by health minister Zweli Mkhize’s former personal assistant, Tahera Mather, and former secretary, Naadhira Mitha.

It won a R150m communications contract, initially for work on the National Health Insurance scheme and later on Covid-19.

The unit earlier this week froze R22m of assets belonging to the company and people linked to it.

This action indicates the SIU has strong evidence of possible wrongdoing.

The SIU has said it intends seeking an order against Digital Vibes and other “relevant entities or individuals” to repay money unlawfully acquired from two allegedly irregular and unlawful contracts with the state.

The unit is to provide a report on its forensic investigation to President Cyril Ramaphosa within the next week.

Mkhize, meanwhile, is on special leave until the SIU completes its investigation.

He has denied benefiting from the Digital Vibes contracts, but the company is reported to have bought a vehicle for Mkhize’s son.

Should Mkhize be implicated in the SIU report, this will be an acid test for the president, on whether his resolve to clean up the government extends to acting against political heavyweights in his cabinet.

Even if Mkhize is cleared of benefiting directly, the saga has cast doubt on his leadership.

It is the president’s prerogative to select his cabinet and at a time when SA is facing a dire health crisis, he needs to ensure the health ministry has a strong, credible leader.

We doubt that Mkhize fits the bill.

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