Embattled former health minister Zweli Mkhize yesterday used his son’s wedding as a mini rally to launch his bid to unseat President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC’s national conference in December this year.
In his speech, Mkhize was coy about stating his presidential ambitions outright, saying he would “do what the society asks us to do”.
But this was the strongest indication yet that he intends to stand for the presidency of the ANC when the party nominates leaders.
A group of Zulu regiments, along with controversial former Ukhozi FM presenter Ngizwe Mchunu, took turns to endorse his campaign at his homestead in Willowfontein, Pietermaritzburg. Mchunu faces charges of instigating the July 2021 riots.
This group is former president Jacob Zuma’s traditional support base. However, it has no influence in ANC processes and it’s not clear how they will lobby for Mkhize in an internal ANC election.
Also present was Sphiwe Blose, a member of the ANC regional working committee in eThwekwini, who said Mkhize has support across the country.
An induna from Impendle in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, who introduced himself as Dumisani Cele, called on Zulus to unite behind Mkhize’s campaign — a sign that some in his lobby group intend to run a campaign along ethnic lines.
Mkhize told guests that allegations of corruption against him are part of a smear campaign to tarnish his image ahead of the December ANC gathering.
“I am being asked about things that happened in 2005 and people who got tenders. I’ve never worked with tenders. I am being asked about clamps for circumcisions. I don’t even know that, there were people who were killed in Richmond and suspects were convicted but now I’m being asked about that. There was a woman who was killed in Johannesburg and the suspects who were arrested apparently were told they must say I sent them,” he said.
“But I want to assure you we will do what the society asks us to do, we will not be intimidated,” he said.
Earlier this month, Sunday World reported that the beneficial owners of the PR firm at the heart of the corruption scandal swirling around Mkhize, Digital Vibes — Tahera Mather, Mkhize’s communications adviser, and Naadira Mitha, his assistant private secretary — were co-operating with the Hawks in their investigation into Mkhize in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The two, who are also reportedly set to be placed in witness protection, are being represented by former national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams.
The paper reported that Digital Vibes set aside R20m for Mkhize’s bid for the ANC presidency. The money was reportedly needed for branches to consolidate memberships before the conference.
Mkhize’s spokesperson declined to comment on the reports.
Earlier this year, Mkhize was cleared by the parliamentary ethics committee of any ethical breaches after it found that his adult son Dedani, who is not a dependent of his, and not Mkhize himself benefited from cash payments from Digital Vibes, aside from a payment of R6,720 meant for maintenance on his Johannesburg home and identified in a report by the Special Investigating Unit.
However, Mather and Mitha will reportedly claim that payments and gifts to Dedani were made at his father’s request.
Last year, the Sunday Times reported affidavits by SIU investigators before the Special Tribunal contained allegations that Digital Vibes roped in a cash ‘n carry boss to help it launder public money and used dodgy electronic fund transfers to withdraw the cash that was then collected by Dedani.
Dedani allegedly received more than R4.2m, including money for a car, and cash in plastic bags and cardboard boxes, payments that were part of R90m Digital Vibes paid over to 20 individuals and companies, family and friends of Mkhize and Mather.
In its report, the SIU recommended that Mkhize and Dedani be investigated criminally, potentially for corruption.