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Ethics Committee needs updating – DA’s Natasha Mazzone on Zweli Mkhize’s arbitrary clearing
Last week Tuesday, almost one year after former health minister Zweli Mkhize was exposed as having been intricately linked to a corruption saga involving communications firm Digital Vibes, Mkhize was cleared by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests. In August, Mkhize’s once-revered reputation as ‘one of the good guys’ in the ANC was all but destroyed when an affidavit by Rajendra Chunilall, a principal forensic investigator and the lead investigator in the Special Investigating Unit’s scrutiny of the scandal, provided the gory details of payments of ridiculous amounts of money made to individuals and entities with direct links to Mkhize. His son, Dedani, was just one such individual. Mkhize has reportedly got the ANC ‘top job’ in his sights and news of the Ethics Committee’s arbitrary clearing is highly suspect. He is, however, not out of the woods. According to Natasha Mazzone, currently serving as chief whip of the DA, the committee’s decision should have no effect on the criminal case against Mkhize who “must face the full might of law”. Mazzone furthermore stated that the Ethics Committee needs updating, given the levels of corruption in our country, and that “there is a sub-committee being started to relook at the ethics code” This article first appeared on MedicalBrief. – Nadya Swart
Parliament’s Ethics Committee lets Zweli Mkhize off the SIU hook
Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests on Tuesday (13 April) has controversially cleared former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize of benefitting from the irregular Digital Vibes tender, contradicting the findings of the Special Investigations Unit, writes MedicalBrief.
Mkhize – who has spent the past few months fighting for his political life after the findings of an SIU report into the R150m communications contract with Digital Vibes led to his resignation – is reportedly eyeing the ANC’s top job in December.
He stepped down in August after the Special Investigations Unit submitted a damning report on his financial affairs to President Cyril Ramaphosa. That report found that Mkhize and his family personally benefited from the Digital Vibes contract. However, Mkhize took the SIU’s report on legal review, claiming his submissions and evidence were not taken into account by the unit.
Mkhize, who is still an MP, faced two complaints before the committee for allegedly receiving benefits for maintenance work at his Bryanston property.
EWN reports that the Joint Committee said he did not breach the ethics code when it came to the disclosure of his interests. The other complaint is related to his son, Thamsanqa, who apparently received R460,000 from the company.
The acting Registrar of Members’ Interests has written to Mkhize to inform him that they found he did not breach the ethics code.
News24 reports that the SIU argued before the Special Tribunal that the Digital Vibes contract was a money-laundering scheme designed to syphon funds to Mkhize’s family, while also shielding the family from accountability. It argued that Mkhize’s son and wife benefited from funds that could be traced to the irregular tender.
DA health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube filed a complaint with the committee, saying Mkhize failed to disclose this benefit. The committee also dismissed the complaint that money from Digital Vibes was used to settle a bill at Mkhize’s Bryanston home.
In responding to Parliament’s findings, Gwarube said it was disappointing the Ethics Committee concluded that the alleged funnelling of money to Mkhize’s son wasn’t a violation of the ethics code, reports TimesLIVE.
“The application of sections of the code were applied so narrowly that it excludes the minister’s son as an unduly 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,” she said.
Daily Maverick reports that Gwarube said the outcomes of the Hawks investigation now under way would be closely monitored. She said the purpose of the code was to create public trust and confidence in public representatives and to protect the integrity of Parliament. When approached for comment, the ANC in Parliament said, “no comment from caucus”.
Committee co-chairpersons Bekizwe Nkosi and Lydia Moshodi emphasised that the finding was confined to the ethics code. According to Netwerk24, the findings included that Thamsanqa does not qualify as an immediate family member as defined by the code “as the son is an adult man who is not financially dependent on the member (Mkhize)”. While the SIU found Mkhize benefited from private electrical work performed by a company, 4-way Maintenance, to his house for payment effected by Digital Vibes, the MPs found that Thamsanqa liaised with 4-way Maintenance and was responsible for the bill.
However, Business Day reports that exoneration by the committee does not end Mkhize’s woes. The SIU accuses him of unlawful and improper conduct. He denies the accusations, and has approached the Gauteng High Court to have them set aside.
On Wednesday, Digital Vibes and 33 others were due to hear the verdict of the Special Tribunal in civil proceedings instituted by the SIU, which accuses the beneficiaries of unjustified enrichment. The SIU has asked the tribunal to review and set aside the Digital Vibes contract and it also seeks repayment of the R150m.
- Digital Vibes – SIU report singles out Deputy DG Pillay for criminal prosecution, finds Mkhize’s actions ‘at worst’ unlawful
- Zweli Mkhize, Digital Vibes corruption saga – Paul O’Sullivan unpacks the gory details
- SIU report finds Zweli Mkhize pressured Health dept to appoint Digital Vibes
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.