Investigative journo guns after Zweli Mkhize in ‘tender exposè’
Renowned journalist, Pieter-Louis Myburgh, has published a detailed investigation into a Department of Health tender deal that may hold dire consequences for Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.
The self-proclaimed money-tracker for Daily Maverick‘s Scorpio team dug into Mkhize’s ties to Digital Vibes, a communications agency that’s been contracted to manage information roll-out campaigns for the health department since late 2019.
Dr Zweli Mkhize accused of cadre deployment
The journo’s probe carefully dissects the longstanding relationship between the health minister and his two close associates, Tahera Mather and Naadhira Mitha, and its link to Digital Vibes’ multi-million rand partnership with his department.
Mather, a known confidant and Mkhize’s former spokesperson, has links to the digital agency, Myburgh found. The investigation also determined that Mitha, the minister’s former secretary in his tenure as the head of Cogta, was employed by Digital Vibes after it had won the closed tender deal to oversee National Health Insurance (NHI) comms, months before the Covid-19 pandemic hit South Africa.
Perhaps, of greater concern in the probe, is the claim that the poorly registered agency, headed by principal director Radha Hariram, was awarded an additional R82 million in March 2020 to further its scope into rolling out the health department’s Covid-19 communications campaign.
The department, Myburgh confirmed, has acknowledged that while the closed tender deal is the subject of an internal investigation, Mather, Mitha and other associates of Digital Vibes are not direct employees of the health ministry. Thus, their work in the agency’s capacity should be of no concern.
“We further confirm that the individuals referred to in the questions are not employed by the Department of Health. Therefore, the department has no legal reason or authority to limit their participation in any business activity or other employment opportunities,” the response read.
Social media drums up Mkhize-Ramaphosa ‘cold war’
Social media took off with outrage as soon as the Scorpio exclusive was published. Myburgh, an award-winning author of Gangster State and The Republic of Gupta, was heralded for yet another important piece of journalism.
However, bubbling beneath the cheers, were murmurs of a different tone. Political conspiracy theorists saw this exposè as an orchestrated smear campaign against the minister, led by the supposed Stellenbosch ‘kitchen Cabinet’ that allegedly controls South Africa through its ‘puppet’, Cyril Ramaphosa.
The wild and untested theories went further, claiming that a cold war is brewing between the health minister and the president over the direction of the vaccine programme.
Here are some of the theories that have surfaced since the Mkhize exposè was published.
Let's not forget to have the same energy today as they try to expose Dr Zweli Mkhize. We know by now that they only attack people who stand in their way. https://t.co/2ASb7ZXTTt— Katlego Mathoki (@katlego_mathoki) February 24, 2021
There is a war between Dr Zweli Mkhize and the cabal. It must be about the vaccines.— ThandekaLo (@ThandekaLo) February 24, 2021
Bandile Masuku and Zweli Mkhize were becoming more popular in handling COVID-19 matters – this was going to work for them in the next Conferences but someone said ‘let me spill the beans’.🤦🏾♂️— Glenzo (@ThamiGatsheni) February 24, 2021
They are now coming to Dr Zweli Mkhize. The same may they destroy all individuals the want out the way. Unleashing the media. It's time for some 🍿🍿🍿— Put South Africa First (@LvovoSA) February 24, 2021
My approach is always political,I don't know Law, economics etc.— Marxist (@Kgomo389) February 24, 2021
On the issue of Dr Zweli Mkhize politically speaking we overlook the content or merits of the accusation and we look at why the media chooses to expose this now that there's a fallout between Zweli and Cyril.