Motlanthe asks public protector to inspect bribe claims

The office of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on Monday asked the public protector to investigate bribery allegations levelled against his partner Gugu Mtshali.

Motlanthe had written to public protector Thuli Madonsela asking her to investigate allegations made against him and Gugu Mtshali in the Sunday Times, his office said in a statement.

“The deputy president takes these allegations very seriously and in view of their seriousness, we decided this can’t be left alone,” Thabo Masebe, Motlanthe’s spokesperson told the Mail & Guardian.

“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,” his office said.

The report said Mtshali had been implicated in soliciting a R104-million “bribe” to obtain government support for a South African company trying to clinch a R2-billion sanction-busting deal with Iran.

Mtshali, former De Beers executive Raisaka Masebelanga and others allegedly met with representatives of 360 Aviation to solicit the bribe.

This was an attempt to secure a R2-billion deal to allow a front company to supply United States-made Bell helicopters and spare parts to the National Iranian Oil Company via South Africa, the newspaper reported.

Managing director of 360 Aviation Barry Oberholzer was quoted as saying: “We believe we were being asked for a bribe ... in exchange for government support.”

Masebe said Motlanthe was not aware that Mtshali had any connection to the company: “He has at no stage discussed such a matter with any person, including the department of trade and industry.”

Mtshali told the newspaper she had never attended a “formal meeting” with 360 Aviation.

However, the Sunday Times claimed to have an audio recording of the meeting, on which Mtshali’s voice was allegedly heard. The deal reportedly failed because 360 Aviation could not reach an agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company.

The US, which manufactures Bell helicopters, prohibits the sale of military equipment to Iran.

Motlanthe’s office said the allegations were serious and needed investigation.

“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.

“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.”

“We need to get to the bottom of the matter.
We felt the public protector would be best placed to deal with this matter,” said Masebe.—Additional reporting by Sapa

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Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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      Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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