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Alleged bribery scandal puts deputy president on the spot

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2012-03-13 00:40:21.0
Kgalema Motlanthe and his partner, Gugu Mtshali. File photo
Image by: ESA ALEXANDER

The Times Editorial: Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe appears to have made a pre-emptive strike by inviting the public protector to investigate any wrongdoing that might involve him and his partner, Gugu Mtshali.

The Sunday Times this past weekend reported that Mtshali had been involved in a venture to "buy government approval" to sell helicopters to Iran. According to the report, Mtshali and others met representatives of 360 Aviation to solicit an alleged bribe of R104-million.

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The series of articles provide substantial proof, including the possession of voice recordings, that Mtshali had indeed been an integral part of the scheme.

But yesterday, Motlanthe's office announced he had asked Thuli Madonsela's office to essentially exonerate them. His office said: "Both Deputy President Motlanthe and Ms Mtshali are firmly of the view that they have committed no wrongdoing of any kind in relation to the alleged events described in the Sunday Times story."

Madonsela will, obviously, have to agree to conduct the investigation.

But, if she does so, she will be closely watched by her many critics to ensure she does not offer a whitewash to salvage Motlanthe's reputation. The allegations against him and his partner could not have come at a worse time for the deputy president as his party gears up for its elective conference in December.

There are many in the ANC who had hoped Motlanthe would be the alternative candidate to President Jacob Zuma.

But the ANC can ill afford, after Zuma, yet another presidential candidate with a damaged reputation - even one damaged by association.

It is commendable that both Motlanthe and his partner have offered themselves to be publicly scrutinised. It is virtually unheard of in South African politics.

It can only be hoped that Motlanthe and Mtshali can offer reasonable and logical explanations for what appears - on the surface - to be pretty damning evidence.

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