Motlanthe moves to clear his name
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has asked the public protector to investigate bribery allegations levelled against his partner, Gugu Mtshali, in connection with an aborted R2-billion deal with Iran.
The Sunday Times at the weekend revealed that Mtshali, together with Motlanthe associates and former De Beers executive Raisaka Masebelanga, met delegates of 360 Aviation, of Cape Town, to discuss "buying" government support for an Iran deal.
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It was alleged that Mtshali and Motlanthe's associates solicited a R104-million bribe in return for obtaining government support for 360 Aviation in its attempt to clinch a R2-billion deal to sell military equipment to Iran in contravention of US sanctions. However, the deal fell through, after 360 Aviation could not reach an agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company.
Yesterday, Motlanthe wrote to public protector Thuli Madonsela asking her to investigate the allegations.
Motlanthe's office said he and Mtshali were "firmly of the view that they have committed no wrongdoing of any kind in relation to the alleged events" reported by the Sunday Times.
"Having regard to the serious nature of the allegations and imputations of the story, Deputy President Motlanthe is of the view that the issues should be subject to an investigation by the public protector," his office said yesterday.
"The deputy president and Ms Mtshali will make themselves available to provide any information to the public protector should she decide to investigate the allegations."
Motlanthe's call for an investigation has been welcomed by some but others see it as an attempt to stave off repercussions, especially within the ANC, in which a leadership battle is in full swing.
In its report, the Sunday Times said it was in possession of a recording of a meeting between Mtshali, Masebelanga and others involved in the bribery allegation, and the managing director of 360 Aviation, Barry Oberholzer, at a Bryanston, Johannesburg, restaurant. The participants in the meeting, on February 17 last year, were said to have discussed the buying of government support for the Iran deal.
Oberholzer told the Sunday Times that the meeting was called to secure a letter from the government, through his associates, in support of the R2-billion Iran deal. "We believe we were being asked for a bribe ... in exchange for government support," he said.
Motlanthe spokesman Thabo Masebe told the Sunday Times that Motlanthe was unaware that his partner had any connection with 360 Aviation.
But the Sunday Times said it had a tape recording that proved that Mtshali attended a meeting at which the deal was discussed.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko yesterday welcomed the decision by Motlanthe to ask the public protector to investigate.
She said the move demonstrated confidence in the office of the public protector, and the much-needed political will to ensure that there were independent investigations into allegations of corruption.
Pan African Advisory Services CEO Iraj Abedian said: "For him [Motlanthe] the battle within the ANC, and his move to engage with the public protector, [are] more of a domestic market move than staving off an American attack.
"He has portrayed himself as being clean and not having dirty hands, and then suddenly, confronted by this issue, his move can be interpreted as being pre-emptive and that way stave off opposition."
The US and the EU have imposed comprehensive sanctions against Iran because of its alleged nuclear weapons development programmes.
Iran has consistently claimed that its nuclear development work is solely for power generation. - Additional reporting Paul Vecchiatto