Eyebrows have been raised in government circles over President Jacob Zuma’s choice of Mirriam Segabutla, Limpopo’s controversial former health minister, as South Africa’s ambassador to Cuba.
She and several other candidate diplomats are currently undergoing training at the department’s offices in Pretoria.
Segabutla is the subject of a probe by public protector Thuli Madonsela following damning allegations that, while she was a provincial minister, she allocated two tenders worth R16-million to her friends.
Her appointment as ambassador follows her dismissal by the Limpopo government in response to numerous scandals in which she was involved.
An official of the department of international relations and cooperation, who asked not to be named, said there were concerns that she would be moving to Havana while facing serious allegations of fraud and corruption.
Approached for comment on Wednesday, Segabutla declined to comment about her appointment and said the public protector had not contacted her about her “findings”.
“I have not been informed when they will release the findings against me,” she said.
The spokesperson for the public protector’s office, Kgalalelo Masibi, said the target date to release the investigation’s report was the end of September.
The Mail & Guardian can reveal that other ANC officials who are being trained as ambassadors include Sa’ad Cachalia, former treasury minister in Limpopo, who is tipped for an ambassadorial post in Qatar, and Stan Mathabatha, formerly of the Limpopo Enterprise Development Agency, who is heading for Guinea-Conakry.
Saul Molobi, the department’s former spokesperson and chief director of public diplomacy, is to be posted to Milan, Italy, while the former mayor of Mbombela, Lassy Chiwayo, is bound for Shanghai in the People’s Republic of China.
Chiwayo, a former Robben Island prisoner, has been embroiled in a bitter feud with Mpumalanga’s ANC chairman, David Mabuza, over the latter’s perceived lack of will to root out corruption and deal with alleged political assassinations that have claimed the lives of high-profile ANC figures such as former Mbombela speaker Jimmy Mohlala and provincial arts and culture spokesperson Sammy Mpatlanyane.
Chiwayo’s name was also on a controversial hit list naming politicians who were allegedly marked for assassination in Mpumalanga.
The names of the ambassadors designate were independently verified by several sources. But international relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela said he could not comment on the names because even if they were ambassadors designate they had not been “accredited” and “presented with credentials”.
“We therefore cannot confirm or deny if anyone has been appointed ambassador or consul-general until the nomination process has been completed,” said Monyela.
Zuma recently sent a number of political outcasts to diplomatic missions abroad, in keeping with his policy of not alienating potential political opponents.
He posted Vusi Mavimbela to Zimbabwe after relations with this former director general in the presidency had soured. Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, the fired minister for women and children and people with disabilities, has been sent to Egypt, and axed labour minister Membathisi Mdladlana is in Burundi.
Former sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile has been posted to Germany and Geoff Doidge, the former minister of public service and administration, is in Sri Lanka.