Parliament defends decision to clear Mkhize in Digital Vibes scandal
'This is outside the scope of the committee and it is left to law enforcement agencies.'
Former Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize conducts an oversight visit to Steve Biko Academic Hospital on January 19, 2021 in Pretoria, South Africa. Picture: Gallo Images/Alet Pretorius
On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests wrote to Mkhize informing the former minister of its decision to clear him following deliberations on the matter.
The matter stemmed from a complaint laid by the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) deputy chief whip Siviwe Gwarube.
Gwarube filed the complaint after the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), in its report, found that Mkhize allegedly benefitted from R6,720 in repairs to his home, which was said to be paid for by Digital Vibes.
She had argued that Mkhize breached the Ethics Code by not disclosing the alleged benefit.
The DA MP’s other complaint related to Mkhize’s son who allegedly received R460,000 from the communications company.
The committee indicated that Mkhize cannot be held liable on behalf of his son’s conduct.
Following the outcome, Gwarube told Daily Maverick that the DA was disappointed by the committee’s decision.
“It is deeply disappointing that the ethics committee would arrive at the conclusion that the alleged funnelling of money to the former health minister’s son isn’t a violation of the ethics code.
“The sections of the code were applied so narrowly that it excludes the minister’s son as an undue beneficiary on the basis that he’s an adult and not dependent on Dr Mkhize financially.
“This finding is seemingly at odds with the spirit of the code and provisions of it by this narrow application,” Gwarube said.
Meanwhile, the committee has defended its decision to clear the former minister.
“The committee emphasised though that it is basing its findings on the ethics code and that all other investigations by law enforcement agencies will continue to determine if there was or there is any criminal act involved,” the committee’s co-chair, Bhekizwe Nkosi told SABC News.
“This is outside the scope of the committee and it is left to law enforcement agencies. The committee assures South Africans that it acts without fear, favour, or prejudice on all matters brought before it,” Nkosi added.
Mkhize stepped down as Health Minister in August 2021 after the SIU submitted its damning report to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The report found that Mkhize and his family personally benefited from the Digital Vibes contract.
But Mkhize has since taken the SIU’s report on legal review, claiming that his submissions and evidence were not taken into account by the unit.
The former minister was also accused of putting pressure on the Department of Health to hire Digital Vibes.
The SIU told the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in September last year that Mkhize may have been negligent when approving budgets worth R132 million relating to the department’s campaigns.