Mbeki’s alleged remarks on Sona were a ‘distortion’

A report in the British newspaper, The Guardian, distorted remarks made by former president Thabo Mbeki on what transpired at last week’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), his office said on Monday.

“The article, headlined ‘Thabo Mbeki slams Jacob Zuma over brawl in South Africa parliament’ is a [mis]interpretation of what was said and amounts to a deliberate distortion,” Mbeki’s spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said in a statement.

“Mr [David] Smith does not make it clear to his readers that what he says is former president Mbeki’s ‘belief’ and ‘view’ is in fact his own narrow interpretation of a broad analysis about the root cause of the incident that took place during the State of the Nation Address.”

He said a full video of the question and answer session with students at the Thabo Mbeki Institute for African Leadership at the University of South Africa, where the comments were reportedly made on Friday, was available on YouTube.

Thabo Mbeki speaks at a question and answer session at the Thabo Mbeki Institute for African Leadership. (YouTube)

Should have answered question
The Guardian reported that Mbeki believed that his successor, President Jacob Zuma, was wrong to not answer the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) question about the R256-million security upgrades to his private home at Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal.

“In Mbeki’s view, Zuma should have directly answered when asked by opposition MPs when he will repay millions in public funds spent on security upgrades at his private homestead, The Guardian has been told,” Smith wrote in his article.

“He thinks it would have been the easiest way to deal with the issue.”

Three EFF MPs, including party leader Julius Malema, were told to leave the House after they persisted in trying to question Zuma about misspending on his home after he started delivering the Sona on Thursday.

Security officers were called in to remove EFF MPs from the National Assembly.

The Democratic Alliance walked out shortly afterwards in protest against the security officers’ presence in the National Assembly Chamber.

Zuma then resumed his speech.

Confront the political problem
Mbeki was quoted as saying: “My reading of the problem is the problem is political, and you don’t use administrative instruments to resolve a political problem … If the problem is political you’re not going to change it by quoting a rule. You’ve got to confront the political problem.

“Let’s not say, ‘You’re out of order, you can’t ask that’,” he said in what appeared to be a swipe at Speaker Baleka Mbete, who called for the removals.

Defending his story on Sunday, Smith wrote on the social networking site, Twitter: “I asked Mbeki if Zuma should have answered. He replied: “I think so. Don’t quote me but that was the easiest way to have dealt with it.”

Ratshitanga said on Monday that a full transcript of what Mbeki had said would be made available on Tuesday.

“Tomorrow, we will release a full transcript of the relevant part of the interaction for the public to make up its mind about Mr Smith’s invention.” – Sapa

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