R1.88m from Digital Vibes deal funnelled to May Mkhize’s farm loan — family’s ‘cut’ climbs to R8.7m

Centre: Former health minister Zweli Mkhize. (Photo: Gallo Images/ Darren Stewart ) | Left: Dedani Mkhize at the Tusokuhle farm near Pietermaritzburg. (Photo: Facebook) | Right: Zweli Mkhize's wife May Mkhize. (Photo: Supplied)

Nearly R2-million siphoned from the Department of Health’s Digital Vibes contract found its way to the state-owned Ithala Development Finance Corporation to help repay a loan for a farm owned by former health minister Zweli Mkhize’s wife. This and other new findings raise the total for the Mkhize family’s allegedly corrupt stake in the contract to nearly R9-million.

Fifteen years ago, Zweli Mkhize, then MEC for finance and economic development in KwaZulu-Natal, faced controversy when the state-owned Ithala Development Finance Corporation granted an R11.8-million loan to his wife to buy a farm near Pietermaritzburg. 

As MEC, Mkhize was Ithala’s political custodian, but he rejected claims that he had influenced the entity’s decision. 

His wife, Dr May Mkhize, was a “professional and a businesswoman in her own right who has dealings with other financial institutions”, Mkhize had stated. 

But Daily Maverick/Scorpio’s latest revelations into the Department of Health’s (DoH) R150-million Digital Vibes contract all but confirm that May Mkhize’s business activities are at least partly funded through dubious transactions linked to her husband’s political career. 

Thanks to new submissions from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) filed at the Special Tribunal, viewed alongside material we’ve sourced and analysed over a period of several months, we can today illustrate in pointed detail how nearly R2-million from the DoH’s Digital Vibes contract made its way to May Mkhize’s loan account.

In other words, taxpayers’ money emanating from an allegedly corrupt contract awarded by the DoH when Zweli Mkhize led the department was utilised to help pay off his wife’s questionable loan from a state-owned institution. 

mkhize digital vibes
Drs Zweli and May Mkhize with their son, Dedani. (Photo: Supplied)

We also shed light on further transactions involving a web of alleged slush funds for the Mkhize family.

Through these entities, some R1.6-million was funnelled from the Digital Vibes contract to businesses owned by Zweli and May Mkhize’s son, Dedani. 

These latest revelations, coupled with our earlier exposés and the SIU’s own findings regarding payments to the former minister and his family, bring to R8.7-million the total of the Mkhizes’ alleged stake in the Digital Vibes deal.

This includes R3.4-million in cash payments Dedani Mkhize allegedly collected from recipients of some of the proceeds from the contract, according to the SIU’s filings.

Speaking through the attorney representing him at the Special Tribunal, Dedani Mkhize strongly denied that he had received any such cash payments.

“These allegations are untrue and this will be proven in due course through a court process and not newspapers,” said the attorney.

mkhize loot

May’s Digital Vibes boon 

The series of transactions in 2020 that preceded the R1.88-million deposit in Ithala’s account, in favour of May Mkhize’s R11.8-million loan, leaves one with little doubt that the payment was made with the proceeds of the Digital Vibes contract. 

In May 2020, the DoH transferred nearly R28-million to Digital Vibes in three payments for invoices the firm had submitted for its Covid-19 communications work. 

Exactly one week after Digital Vibes received the last of these payments from the DoH, Digital Vibes began transferring large sums of money to Mateta Projects, a company unmasked in our earlier reports as an alleged slush fund for the Mkhizes.

From 22 to 28 May 2020, Digital Vibes transferred more than R6-million to Mateta. 

Just over two weeks after Mateta had received the last of these payments from Digital Vibes, the company started making payments to Sirela Trading, a company run by Protus Sokhela, a business associate of the Mkhize family.

In three transactions effected between 16 and 18 June 2020, Mateta paid R2.3-million to Sirela Trading. 

Finally, on 22 June 2020, four days after Sirela had received the last of its three payments from Mateta, Sirela paid the R1.88-million to Ithala in favour of May Mkhize’s loan from the state-owned lender, the SIU has discovered.

mkhize cash

According to deeds office records, Ithala in 2006 granted the R11.8-million loan to Cedar Falls Properties 34 as a bond for the purchase of several portions of the farm Rietspruit near Pietermaritzburg. 

May Mkhize is listed as Cedar Falls’ sole director. 

The SIU evidently views this transaction as an alleged kickback linked to the Digital Vibes contract.

“Given the very serious implications of this transaction, the SIU will bring an application to join Dr May Mkhize and Cedar Falls Properties 34 in this application and to seek the repayment by her and/or her company of R1,888,727.84 being an unjustified benefit deriving from the proceeds of unlawful activities,” reads the unit’s latest filings.

May Mkhize told Scorpio she did not wish to comment on the transaction. 

Dedani Mkhize’s lawyer,  who also spoke on Sokhela’s behalf,  said the SIU had based its latest affidavit on “assumptions” and had made “preposterous allegations against our clients without interviewing the parties concerned to establish the real facts.”

Family farm 

While Dr May Mkhize owns the Pietermaritzburg farm through Cedar Falls Properties 34, Dedani Mkhize appears to play a more active role in the farm’s management.

The farm’s business activities are managed through an entity called Tusokuhle Farming, which lists Dedani Mkhize and Protus Sokhela as its directors. May Mkhize used to be a director of Tusokuhle, but she resigned in 2018, according to company records.

Like Cedar Falls, Tusokuhle received a substantial windfall thanks to the DoH’s Digital Vibes contract. 

Between 29 May and 28 October 2020, the company pocketed payments totalling R1.25-million from Mateta Projects and Sirela Trading. (See “Cash crop” graphic.)

Save for one payment of R105,000 directly from Mateta to Tusokuhle, the bulk of this money was flushed through Sokhela’s Sirela Trading.

dedani mkhize
Dedani Mkhize at the Tusokuhle farm near Pietermaritzburg. (Photo: Facebook)

Again, the sequence of these payments, starting at the DoH and ending in Tusokuhle’s account, leaves us with little doubt that we’re dealing with the proceeds of the Digital Vibes contract. 

This is how one such series of payments transpired: On 21 October 2020, the DoH settled a large Digital Vibes invoice for R11.7-million.

Two days later, Digital Vibes transferred R1.6-million to Mateta Projects. 

One day after Mateta received the money, it forwarded R900,000 to Sirela Trading, followed by an additional transfer of R595,000 to Sirela on 26 October.

Finally, on 28 October 2020, Sirela transferred R400,000 to Dedani Mkhize’s Tusokuhle Farming. 

The SIU has also identified a payment of R350,000 linked to the DoH contract that went to another of Dedani Mkhize’s companies, All Out Trading, in August 2020.

We furnished Dedani Mkhize and Sokhela with a detailed account showing how the monies their entities received had originated from the DoH’s Digital Vibes contract.

“Both Dedani and Protus [Sokhela] maintain there were no ‘kickbacks’ paid to them as you allege,” said their attorney.

“Mr Sokhela categorically states that he has never benefitted from Digital Vibes, has no dealing with the company, its director or any of its representatives,” he added.

“We can confirm that Mr Sokhela and Dedani Mkhize jointly own and operate a farm. Therefore transactions that relate to their farm occur in the ordinary course of their business and can all be accounted for,” said the attorney. DM


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All Comments 39

  • What a bloody despicable minister, still hailed by Ramaphosa, another filthy rich person, apart from his filthy rich family. And will something happen, like criminal charges and conviction? Highly unlikely

  • The ex minister has the correct credentials to be this country’s next president since corruption and ineptitude is rewarded by the ruling party.

    If, 15 years ago there was already a questionable transaction that involves him, how did he retain or get the promotion to minister? He definitely didn’t get it for the stellar performance in the previous roles because those departments are failing as well.

    This man is our next president. The current president was once a union representative, who’s job was to represent the interests of employees. Fast forward a decade or 2 and the constituency he was representing is doing far much worse with employment at its lowest while is a billionaire and president.

  • Please note that all training for any financial improprieties was done when Zweli was ANC Treasurer General at Luthule House during the Zuma state capture years. His impact has lingered on till last year when ANC lost a R100 million court case for supply of posters for the last election and since then the ANC has had no money because Judge Zondo also cut off the Gupta and Bosasa funding stream.

  • Remarkable but when does the NPA prove that it has the ability to actually ACT!!! Look no further than the VBS Bank and Estina Dairy debacle….who has been charged, arrested and appeared in court? The NPA is failing the citizens of this country on a monumental scale??? Where the hell is this organisation?

  • This is simply a case of slowly, slowly catch a monkey. It obviously takes a lot of work to unearth this and I congratulate Pieter-Louis and other journalists for their persistence.

    • Yes, I absolutely agree. Where would we be without these intrepid hero’s?? And the NPA with Shamila Batohi at its helm will act when they have all their ducks in a row, I have no doubt and it’s the right way to go. Just a pity we’ll all have died of old age by then though…

  • The great South African tragedy:
    Act 1: Present an article detailing obvious and entirely known corruption (with the reliable absence of an diagram arrow pointing to jail)
    Act 2: Trolley out the usual gang of “high horse, OMG it’s all just so bad” commenters. [Yawn]
    Act 3: [cancelled due to lack of funding]

  • It would be SO good if, instead of just hitting our keyboard to make knee-jerk and somewhat trivial comment or reiterate what is already known, that we actually add to the discourse by providing information that pushes things forward instead of keeping the discussion in a holding pattern of negativity.

    Firstly, I ask us to consider whether the vitriolic towards rich men applies to white men such as Douw Steyn, Rupert Murdoch, Whitey Basson, Christoffel Wiese – or only to rich black men like CR and Patrice Motsepe? I’m not totally for rich men, but I ask us to be measured.

    Secondly, FYI CR led and built the biggest trade union in SA, (NUMSA) – whatever you may think of trade unions, which I suspect many people do. CR was Nelson Mandela’s choice as successor for president of SA, and together with Roelf Meyer of the National Party, brought SA to a bloodless changeover and the first democratic elections in 1994 because he is a consummate negotiator. President Mandela realised that SA needed black captains of industry and CR was encouraged in that direction. He’s been very successful at it.

    Finally, on the issue of corruption, I ask for some introspection. Am I a paragon of virtue? No. Have I lived my life with utmost integrity? No. Have I done anything financially dodgy? Yes. Have I benefitted from the exploitation of another person? Yes. Defensiveness gets us nowhere and de-nial is not a river in Egypt!

    • While in principle I am in favour of a measured response, you are conflating two separate issues that are totally unrelated. We should not give a damn about the colour of the millionaire because it is irrelevant. That is not the issue here. The issue, surely, is about the complete absence of any action by the people who should be charging those who are stealing from funding which should be going to uplift the poorest in our communities. The ‘big-wigs’ seem to be left untouched. In the past they may have been white big-wigs, now they are black. The principle remains constant. Those in power get away with murder – literal and figurative.

    • Roslyn, seeing that you’ve been so forthright about your sins you are free to choose your own punishment and then all will be forgiven.

    • “Finally, on the issue of corruption, I ask for some introspection. Am I a paragon of virtue?” Before we take the introspection too far…did you take an Oath of Office? Mkhize did, as did the army of his ilk in the ANC.

  • Thank you DM for stellar work once again! This article finally convinced me to start contributing monthly – South Africa needs you.

  • The business community
    in this country and internationally is the biggest thieves and the most corrupt. Workers underpaid. Tax evasion for years. Access to government funds through subsidies and infrastructure. Racist employment policies. Buying ekection results. Corrupting even further corrupt politicians. Banks with exorbitant charges. Facilitating corrupt transactions. Cell phone companies milking the most poor and vulnerable with disproportionate charges. Rich white families with impunity enjoying generational wealth gains from apartheid. Not only the rich though also the middle class whites who are enraged rightly so but never for their own privilege and inheritance. Super rich benefiting from a pandemic it is murderous Brilliant black and coloured men in their over 50’s could not realise their potential. . What a scandalous waste. Quadrillions squandered. They are not called to account will never be. Hide behind social responsibility. Not all is lost there are some bright spots few and far between. Let’s not lump them indiscriminately. Have the same persistent condemnation for the legal thieves as for the corrupt politicians.

  • Looks like we need another look at the past dealings of MkSleasy ‘n co, probably other Zondo loads of funds funneled to everywhere but the intended purpose.

  • The aim of business leaders is to make profits and to please their shareholders( if any)They do not swear an oath of allegiance to the state , or makepromises to protect lives.Cabinet ministers, on the other hand, make a pledge of allegiance to the state and service to its people or are supposed to! The distinction between doing business (with the state generally)and carrying out the business of the state , has become blurred to extinction by mainly ANC politicians. Add to this a Hippocratic oath as taken by a Health Minister who makes a binding promise to serve the people in this particular field So someone in this position, who betrays every fundamental tenet, and steals from the poor in a time of pandemic, deserves no sympathy, only disgust for his behaviour.

  • Corrupt and incompetent, and of the few that are not, most are ideologically hidebound to economic models that failed in eastern Europe in the ’70s. Very depressing.

  • Waiting in anticipation to see where in the world CR will place Mkhize as an Ambassador and hide him and his family from accountability….

  • Thx DM and Mr. Myburgh for doing what our legal & justice system should do a lot more of! Got my fingers crossed that something will/may happen (sort of soon)! 🙁

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