12,140 views

Mkhize Inc: Inside minister’s sprawling empire where wife sits on multimillion-rand throne

Dr Zweli Mkhize and Dr. May Mkhize

0Shares

  • Controversy has followed Zweli Mkhize’s political career, from KZN to the national stage.
  • Mkhize has never been charged and has maintained steadfast denials of wrongdoing.
  • More recent scandals, including Digital Vibes, have again placed Mkhize in an apparently precarious position.

May Mkhize, the wife of Zweli Mkhize, who reportedly has his sights set on the ANC presidency, is at the head of what appears to be a sprawling family empire, including a considerable business and property portfolio, and links to at least 38 companies and several homes.

The family has, for many years, owned two homes and numerous dwellings on a 1 299-hectare farm in Pietermaritzburg, the latter purchased with a loan from a state-owned funding institution.

The Mkhizes also recently sold a townhouse, for R6 million, in an upmarket Johannesburg estate in Bryanston. 

News24 has also found that an auditor, Roshan Morar, who appears to be well-regarded by the ANC, himself has come under the spotlight recently, amid allegations of tenders being awarded to his firm irregularly. He is the auditor of 12 of the companies linked to May Mkhize, including companies implicated in the Digital Vibes scandal.

Morar’s company, Amakhono Capital, was awarded a tender to supply spray guns to the KZN education department in 2020. He later agreed to repay profits from the deal to the department as part of a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) settlement deal. 

Zweli Mkhize has spent the better part of three decades in various senior ANC leadership positions. Public records reveal he owns comparatively few properties.

Since 1994, Mkhize has served as the MEC for health and later economic development in KZN, and premier of the province.

 mkhize

He then served as treasurer-general of the ANC before being appointed minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, and then minister of health.

Mkhize resigned as health minister in 2021 after the Digital Vibes scandal. He currently occupies no government or ANC leadership position.

Morar’s firm has done extensive work for government departments in KZN and the Free State, and served on numerous key state-owned company boards, including the Airports Company South Africa, the Public Investment Corporation, as deputy chair, and the South African National Roads Agency, where he was chairperson. 

Zweli Mkhize: I didn’t benefit from Digital Vibes contract, no need to step asideHealth Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed that irregular expenditure of at least R35 million is involved in the communications contract with Digital Vibes and said that the department will fully co-operate with investigators from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Based on the minutes of the ANC’s deployment committee, chaired by the deputy president, it said, in evidence before the Zondo Commission, that the committee discusses appointments of board members and CEOs of important state-owned entities, and the approval of the committee is required prior to appointments being made. 

Additionally, publicly available deeds office and company records show:

  • The Mkhizes own two other properties – a house in Ashburton bought in 1995, and a house in Cato Manor, Pietermaritzburg, bought in 2009 for R615 000. May Mkhize’s current directorships include Cedar Falls Properties 34, Westside Trading 269, Inhlansi Business Enterprises, New Nation Beverages, Fukula Nabanya, Letsatsi Development House, Pitanatso Consultancy and 14 others.
  • May Mkhize was formerly a director of Thebe Investment Corporation and several other entities in the Thebe group as well as Tradepost 2114, Siyagaya Investment Holdings, Silver Peak Trading, Nikamandla Holdings, Sceniway, SC and PMB General Trading, Full View Trading 6, Convenient Tours and Transfers and Mantombazane Holdings.  

Former director-general in the Presidency, Cassius Lubisi, is the current chairperson of Morar’s firm. Companies linked to May Mkhize have benefitted from state funding or contracts. But there is little direct evidence available to suggest or show that Zweli Mkhize’s political career influenced any of these contracts.  

This includes a loan from state-owned Ithala Development Finance Corporation in 2006, small contracts to a company May Mkhize appears to have been involved in, Inhlansi Business Enterprise, awarded by the Msunduzi Municipality, and the alleged flow of money from a Public Investment Corporation deal toward a property purchase in 2018. 

May is, like Zweli, a qualified doctor, but has served as a director of these companies in some cases, for nearly 20 years. News24 understands that she has also devoted considerable time to philanthropic efforts as part of non-profit organisations she and Zweli founded. 

Her business interests include being a director of Dick Whittington Shoes for nearly 16 years, a well-known Pietermaritzburg company that has been a leading supplier of boots for the South African National Defence Force, the SA Police and correctional services for nearly four decades. She was also a director of Thebe Investment Corporation, which is part owned by the ANC. 

The auditor

Morar is the auditor of companies linked to controversy around a farm purchased in 2006 by Cedar Falls Property 34, of which May Mkhize has been the sole director since 2005. 

Cedar Falls was awarded an R11 million loan in 2006 by the Ithala Development Finance Corporation, money the company used to purchase 10 portions of the farm Riet Spruit, just outside Pietermaritzburg. 

Today, the farm is run by the Mkhize’s son, Dedani, and his associates and, according to the Umshwati Local Municipality valuation roll for 2019, the property is now worth more than R26 million.

The loan, which at the time raised the ire of opposition politicians because Zweli Mkhize was the MEC for economic development and had political oversight of Ithala, is under renewed scrutiny due to the Digital Vibes scandal. morarmkhizeFormer finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, Roshan Morar and Zweli Mkhize at an event in March 2013.

According to SIU Special Tribunal records, at least R4.8 million of R150 million in payments the national health department made to Digital Vibes, run by Zweli Mkhize’s former spokesperson and family friend, Tahera Mather, made its way via a series of transactions and related entities to benefit the Mkhize family – including R1.8 million paid to the Ithala loan account for the Cedar Falls farm. 

Ithala confirmed that it had a relationship with Cedar Falls, but would not comment further, saying it would be a violation of the Protection of Personal Information Act to do so.

Morar was, in 2017, appointed chairperson of Ithala, where he was also a director between 2003 and 2011, company records show.

Morar, whose firm audits many of the entities May Mkhize has been involved in, served as a PIC board member and later deputy chairperson, between 2011 and 2017. Another close Mkhize associate, Sibu Zulu, served on the PIC board between 2015 and 2019. She was later appointed Mkhize’s chief of staff when he became health minister. 

According to company records, Morar was a director of Ithala between 2003 and 2011 and was, in 2017, after he left the PIC, appointed the chairperson of the Ithala board.

Ithala refused to respond to questions aiming to establish whether Morar had declared a potential conflict of interest with May Mkhize’s Cedar Falls.  Company records show that Morar’s company is the only registered auditor ever recorded for Cedar Falls, but it is unclear if his firm was auditing the company at the time the loan was granted in 2006.  Morar, meanwhile, denied any impropriety, but also said his firm could not discuss the issues as it was confidential financial information relating to the company’s clients. He did not respond to questions over whether he had declared a potential conflict of interest to Ithala and maintained that Morar Incorporated “maintain[s] the highest professional and ethical standards for which our firm is held in high regard” with all its clients. morarmkhize Zweli Mkhize, Roshan Morar and former eThekwini Metro deputy mayor Logie Naidoo at the opening of Morar Incorporated’s office in Durban in 2016.

He added that all Ithala loans are issued subject to due process, including detailed reviews by management and board committees. 

Under scrutiny

An SIU investigation into Digital Vibes has placed the 2006 loan under fresh scrutiny, when it emerged that R1.8 million from the national health department contract was channelled, via various entities, to the Ithala loan account in the name of Cedar Falls.

The Mkhizes have maintained steadfast denials to rebut allegations of wrongdoing over the years, but declined to respond to detailed questions for this story. 

But, in 2021, Daily Maverick revealed that R5.9 million was paid to an attorney’s firm by a company owned by businessman, Lawrence Mulaudzi – Blackgold Oil and Gas – in respect of a property purchase for a Bryanston townhouse that the Mkhizes’ ZLM Trust purchased in 2018. Mulaudzi told the publication the payment was for a business deal.

May Mkhize confirmed that it was a “family property”, according to the publication, who had first revealed that some of the Digital Vibes money had been channelled to service providers that had undertaken renovations and repairs at the property. 

–CityPress

0Shares

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.