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Digital Vibes: SIU admits it ‘erred’ and withdraws allegation that government spokesperson Ndabezinhle Sibiya benefitted from the tender

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The SIU linked government spokesperson Ndabezinhle Sibiya to the R150 million tender, awarded by the national Department of Health for the National Health Insurance communication strategy, through a subcontractor, Sotobe Media

Ndabezinhle Sibiya

DURBAN – THE Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has admitted it erred and has withdrawn its allegation that government spokesperson Ndabezinhle Sibiya benefitted from the controversial Digital Vibes tender.

The SIU linked Sibiya to the R150 million tender, awarded by the national Department of Health for the National Health Insurance (NHI) communication strategy, through a subcontractor, Sotobe Media.

Sotobe Media allegedly received potential irregular payments amounting to just over R9.7m from Digital Vibes.

The admission of error is contained in the SIU’s supplementary affidavit filed on September 30, before the Special Tribunal in Johannesburg, by its principal forensic investigator, Jarendra Chunilall.

“In the table at paragraph 111, p 002-221 of the founding affidavit, the allegation was made that this company was potentially related to the previous spokesperson of Dr Zweli Mkhize (ie, the 5th respondent) Mr Ndabezinhle Sibiya.

“Upon further investigations, the SIU has established that this is not correct and that there is no relationship between Sotobe Media and Mr Ndabezinhle Sibiya. The SIU withdraws the allegation,” read Chunilall’s affidavit.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago confirmed that the SIU filed a supplementary affidavit, but said they could not comment further as the matter was sub judice.

However, Sibiya was not moved by the withdrawal of the allegation.

“I remain determined to clean up my name. Those responsible for misleading the President of the Republic, Cyril Ramaphosa, with this shoddy work must face the consequences,” he said.

Sibiya is suing the SIU, a forensic accountant, Arena Holdings, and the Sunday Times editor and printer for R500 000 in damages, for claiming he was linked to Sotobe Media, in the matter between the SIU and Digital Vibes.

Sibiya is seeking relief from the Special Tribunal to declare that this was all done without giving him an opportunity to be heard, and that it was defamatory and false.

Further, he is calling for the section of the Sunday Times article, published on July 31 and August 1 based on the SIU report, which refers to his alleged link to Sotobe Media, to be removed from the article and its archives.

He also seeks to have Arena Holdings, the Sunday Times editor, and the Sunday Times, interdicted and restrained from “publishing in any manner or form any statement written, oral or graphic, or any article that conveys to the public or implies that Sotobe Media is a company related to him”.

According to court papers, filed on October 12, Sibiya wants the five respondents to “jointly and severally” be directed to pay damages.

His alternative relief sought is for an order declaring the five respondents to be liable to pay the damages; for the amount of the damages be referred to oral evidence; and that all five respondents pay his legal costs.

Sibiya said his application emanated from the SIU investigation into Digital Vibes and other parties, which was pending before the Special Tribunal and he, therefore, finds that the tribunal has jurisdiction to entertain his application.

In court papers, Sibiya said Hesti Marcia le Roux, the forensic accountant and second respondent, on the SIU’s instruction, deposed an affidavit in support of an application against several companies, which include Digital Vibes.

In Le Roux’s affidavit, Sotobe Media was listed as a potential implicated entity and that its director was Sithembiso Sikhumbuzo Sibiya, and that Sithembiso was Ndabezinhle Sibiya, Mkhize’s previous spokesperson.

In his affidavit, Sibiya said that in August his attorney sent a letter of demand to the SIU, stating that he was “falsely and wrongfully associated with Sotobe Media”.

His attorneys said this could have been avoided had the SIU contacted him.

“I have suffered harm and continue to suffer harm to my reputation, both in a personal and official capacity, because of the widespread dissemination of the statement linking me to a company that is being investigated for corruption.”

Sunday Times managing editor Susan Smuts said: “We will decide on our course of action once we have seen the affidavit.”

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