The ministry of agriculture, land reform and rural development has denied claims that deputy minister Sdumo Dlamini is in hospital battling for his life after being poisoned.
Stories that Dlamini, a former president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), had been poisoned and was in intensive care emerged on social media and on Africa News 24-7 on Tuesday morning, sparking a decision by the ministry to issue a statement about the matter.
Spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said on Tuesday that they were not aware of any claim that Dlamini — appointed to Cabinet in May — had been poisoned.
“We don’t know where these allegations are coming from,” said Ngcobo. “We are not aware of any poisoning incident.”
Ngcobo said Dlamini (53) was on sick leave and had been admitted to a Durban hospital after suffering from a severe headache.
“In consultation with the family and the visits we have had we are pleased to inform you that his is recuperating very well… the family and his doctors request privacy while they are attending to him,” Ngcobo said.
A former Cosatu colleague, who asked not to be named, said they were “shocked” by the allegation that Dlamini had been poisoned.
“This is very unsettling,” the unionist said. “We are sending somebody to the family home to try and find out what is going on. We only heard about this on social media this morning.”
Dlamini, who was born at Ingwavuma in northern KwaZulu-Natal, studied general nursing and midwifery and worked as a nurse before becoming a shop steward with the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) at Umlazi’s Prince Mshiyeni Hospital in 1990.
Dlamini became active in the trade union movement, becoming Nehawu and then Cosatu provincial chairperson. He was elected as Cosatu president in 2008, serving two terms before being replaced last year by the federation’s first female president, Zingiswa Losi.
He was appointed to Cabinet by President Cyril Ramaphosa after the May elections.
Once a close ally of former president Jacob Zuma, Dlamini eventually fell from favour with Cosatu over his relationship with Zuma, after the federation turned against the former head of state when allegations of state capture emerged.
Dlamini — and Cosatu — had been central to the campaign to have Zuma elected as ANC president at Polokwane in 2007 and again at Mangaung in 2012. However, during the course of 2017 the federation changed its stance on Zuma, demanding that he be recalled over the state capture claims.
Despite this, Dlamini was appointed as deputy minister by Ramaphosa when he chose his Cabinet in May.
SAPS spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said they had no knowledge of any such incident.