Sheep, tea, vodka and rum: Zweli Mkhize declares gifts received in 2019

Health minister Zweli Mkhize declared a list of things he received as gifts in 2019.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize declared a list of things he received as gifts in 2019.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize has declared an assortment of gifts he received in 2019 including two sheep, snack baskets, chocolates, red wine — and rum from the Cuban ambassador.

Mkhize is under intense scrutiny over R150m paid by the department to communications company Digital Vibes. Two of the minister's former close associates are part of the company.

Payments by the company, reported Daily Maverick, were made to Mkhize between January 2020 and February 2021. The company also allegedly paid for maintenance work to a property owned by Mkhize's family in 2020.

These payments fall outside the time covered by the latest register of members' interests and financial benefits for 2019, released by parliament's joint committee on ethics and members' interests on Tuesday.

Mkhize makes no mention of Digital Vibes in his 2019 declaration of interests. Daily Maverick reported that the company was appointed by the department in late 2019 to work on a communications plan for the National Health Insurance (NHI) programme. Its scope of work was later extended to include Covid-19.

Apart from declaring various properties in KwaZulu-Natal, Mkhize declared receiving various gifts in 2019, including two sheep  — each worth R1,200 — which were given to him by the KwaZulu-Natal royal houses.

He also declared being gifted a box of KitKat chocolates worth about R100 from a PR company.

He also received a photo frame containing a knobkerrie, paintings, rooibos tea, notebooks and pens, an ANC bag and party T-shirts, along with bottles of wine, biltong and nuts, a powerbank from Iqbal Survé and fitbit watches.

Besides the sheep, the next most expensive item he received as a gift was a bottle of Santiago de Cuba Ron Rum and a coffee and tea set from the Cuban ambassador worth R900.

He was also gifted “Cape vintage reserve red wine” — two bottles worth R500 — and a R750 bottle of Pyccknn Ctahoapt vodka by the ambassador of the Russian Federation.

Mkhize was appointed health minister in May 2019 and served as minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs from February 2018 to May 2019.

Mkhize, who admitted that there may have been irregularity in Digital Vibes being granted the tender, has vehemently denied he had benefited personally from the deal.

But an investigation by the Special Investigating Unit revealed that  his former private assistant, Tahera Mathera and former spokesperson Naardhira Mitha have strong ties to the company, though the two are not listed as directors.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday that he had been briefed by Mkhize on the issue.

Ramaphosa asked to be given time to consider the allegations.

“The SIU is looking into this matter, so I am waiting for the SIU to finish their report. There has been a preliminary report and investigation at departmental level and the minister has briefed me. I am waiting to see how the SIU will conclude on this matter,” he said.


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