Lizeka Tonjeni in dock for Digital Vibes bribes. Photo: Introduction
- Lizeka Tonjeni is on trial for allegedly accepting a bribe of R160,000 from Digital Vibes.
- Tonjeni’s defense is that the money was to sell health care products as well as loans.
- On Thursday, the state accused Tongeni of amending her testimony as the trial continued.
The state slammed a Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) employee on trial for allegedly accepting a R160,000 bribe from Digital Vibes, accusing her of adapting her evidence.
Lesica Tongeni appeared before the Specialized Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria on Thursday, where the public prosecutor, barrister Willem van Zyl, continued her questioning.
Tongeni has been charged with one count of corruption related to a R3.9 million tender awarded to Digital Vibes in 2018. She was a project manager in the CEO’s office at the time.
During this time, it received numerous payments from Digital Vibes, which the state claims were bribes to further the company’s interests.
In her defence, Tonjeni does not dispute receiving the money from Digital Vibes through Tahera Mather, but insists that Mather gave her two loans and brought R60,000 worth of healthcare products from her.
According to a report by the Special Investigation Unit, Mather is one of the actual owners of Digital Vibes, although the company is registered as a gas station manager in Stanger.
change her testimony
Tonjeni was running a side business, selling healthcare products she brought in from a company called Zija International.
Tonjeni initially testified that customers could either pay for products they ordered via email with electronic funds transfer or they could go to the warehouse and use their credit card.
However, this changed as the country went through 10 transactions where Tonjeni bought the products.
The last transaction was more than a month before she received her first payment from Mather.
Then Tonjeni claimed that the customer could go to the warehouse and purchase the products with cash. In fact, she confirmed that she mostly used the cash to make purchases from Zija International.
“You never told us about your cash purchases when you explained how you were going to handle Zija,” Van Zyl said.
If she didn’t tell the court, Tongeni said, it must have been a mistake.
Van Zyl accused Tonjeni of altering her testimony to fit it as the trial continued.
Tonjeni also couldn’t provide invoices or receipts from her purchases because she didn’t have access to the email account she used at the time to issue orders, and Zija International’s South African branch closed, so she couldn’t get required documents from them either, she said.
The state detailed 18 payments Mather made to Tongeni.
According to Tongeni, 15 payments were made for products, two for loans, and a third for gasoline.
The state indicated that the payments made by Mather were not in any way similar to those of other clients. It was always much larger amounts rounded off compared to payments made by other customers.
“Is there anything to prevent rounding up? Some other people have also rounded up. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that,” Tongeni said.
Regarding the alleged loan of 100,000 rand, Tongeni said it was for an agricultural business she wanted to open. There was no contract, only a written agreement.
Tongeni told the court she had not yet paid Mather.
“Yeah, I haven’t paid her yet. I thought it was not the right time to pay her now because of the developments,” she said.
This was apparently after the Digital Vibes scandal with the Department of Health broke the surface in 2021 following investigative reporting by the Daily Maverick.
The trial continues on Friday.