State agency employee accused of accepting bribe from Digital Vibes pleads not guilty

  • Lizeka Tonjeni is accused of accepting a bribe of R160 000 from Digital Vibes.
  • On Thursday, Tonjeni pleaded not guilty to one count of corruption. 
  • Evidence was led in court that Tonjeni made no financial disclosures to MISA in respect of the money she allegedly received. 

Lizeka Tonjeni, who is accused of accepting a bribe of R160 000 from Digital Vibes, did not make any financial disclosures to the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA), in respect of the money she received.

Tonjeni was an employee at MISA.

This was revealed in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria on Thursday, in the trial against Tonjeni.

She pleaded not guilty to one count of corruption.

Tonjeni allegedly accepted the bribe from Digital Vibes to further the company’s interests while she was project manager of a R3.9 million contract awarded to the controversial company in 2018.

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The first witness to take the stand was the assistant director of risk management at MISA, Lesego Bokaba.

Bokaba told the court that part of her duties included being an ethics officer, which assisted employees with their financial disclosures and declarations. This is the approval process for remunerative work by employees outside of the state-owned agency.

Bokaba went through the processes that had to be followed in making declarations – and also testified that an employee should not have any relationship with service providers contracted to MISA.

After Tonjeni’s declarations were handed to the court as evidence, Bokaba testified that no financial declarations were made by the accused between 2018 and 2020.

The only disclosure mentioned was that Tonjeni was the director of a company, which was called Divine Spectrum.

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However, it was recorded that no money had been made via the consultancy company during the period mentioned.

Bokaba said it was clear from the declaration that Tonjeni did not conduct any work outside of her employment.

During cross-examination, Tonjeni’s attorney, who previously refused to give his name to the media, put a number of hypothetical situations to Bokaba, which he called scenarios.

One such scenario was that other employees were also paid money by Digital Vibes, but that Tonjeni was the only one criminally charged, effectively saying she was targeted.

He also asked why Tonjeni was charged, as opposed to being reprimanded internally, for not making a disclosure.

CEO was aware of payments 

The attorney then put it to Bokaba that the MISA CEO, whom he did not name, was aware that Tonjeni was engaged with remunerative work for Digital Vibes.

He did not specify what work this was – but asserted that, if the CEO was aware, this was tantamount to a verbal disclosure and approval.

Bokaba retorted that there had to be a written approval for remunerative work outside of MISA.

He then alleged that Tonjeni also sold health products and that one of her clients was the CEO.

Bokaba said she did not consider purchases made by the CEO as an approval because there was a process involved in getting approval.

Bokaba previously stated that the CEO was the highest decision-maker on approval requests to do work outside of the workplace.

News24 previously reported that MISA falls under the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) – and, at the time, Zweli Mkhize was the Cogta minister.

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One of the indirect owners of Digital Vibes, Tahera Mather, was his spokesperson.

According to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), Mather and Naadhira Mitha were the true owners of Digital Vibes, even though the company was registered in the name of a petrol station manager in Stanger, KwaZulu-Natal.

Digital Vibes has also been the subject of an investigation into a R150 million tender with the national Department of Health.

The SIU found that the contract was irregular and unlawful, and that Mkhize and his family benefitted from the tender.