News / Africa

South African Opposition Demand President Suspend Spokesman Implicated in Bribe Allegations

Mac Maharaj, former South African Minister of Transport. (File Photo)
Mac Maharaj, former South African Minister of Transport. (File Photo)
Delia Robertson

South African President Jacob Zuma says he won’t comment on the call by opposition parties for the suspension of his spokesman and former minister of transport Mac Maharaj.  The calls came after allegations that Maharaj and his wife received bribes related to a controversial 1999 defense procurement package that was worth $4.8 billion.

Zuma says that he cannot comment on the call to suspend his spokesman Mac Maharaj, because Maharaj has filed a legal complaint against the Mail & Guardian newspaper.  Last Friday, the paper published a report that alleged Maharaj lied to South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, NPA.

Pierre de Vos, professor of constitutional law at the University of Cape Town, tells VOA it appears Zuma is hiding behind the pretext of legality.

“Given the fact that Mr. Maharaj has declined to make any explicit denial that he had actually lied to the NPA, something that would have been a criminal offense if it did happen, and given the other allegations leveled against Mr. Maharaj, I think the president is trying to avoid having to deal with this matter, and I think they don’t really know how to deal with it,” he said.

Before abandoning an investigation into Maharaj in 2007, the NPA questioned him about alleged bribes paid to him and his wife, Zarina, when Maharaj was minister of transport.

The alleged bribes came from the French company Thomson CSF, now known as Thales, through Zuma's former financial advisor Shabir Shaik. In 2005 Shaik was convicted of corruption for numerous payments made to or for the benefit of Zuma, including some on behalf of Thomson CSF. Shaik's conviction led to the dismissal of Zuma, who was then South Africa's deputy president.

Corruption and other charges against Zuma were controversially dropped by the NPA in 2009, a few months before he became president. The charges were related to the 1999 defense procurement package with several international arms-makers.

And now South Africa's Sunday Times reports that it has obtained a copy of a consultancy agreement, never before disclosed, between Thomson CSF and Shaik's company Minderley Investments.

The paper says the agreement shows secret payments totaling $300,000 were routed through Minderley to offshore bank accounts belonging to Maharaj's wife Zarina. The payments were made two months before her husband's department awarded the French company a driver’s license contract worth $33 million, a spin-off deal from the arms procurement package.

When asked on the eNews Channel’s The Justice Factor whether he had accepted a bribe, Maharaj did not directly answer the question.

“I will not subject myself an investigation by any singular media agency, when it is dealing with matters in an isolated way and does not put its information on the table,” he said.

De Vos says the developments will make it difficult for Maharaj to do his job.

"Well obviously, the problem is always if you are the spin-doctor basically, the spokesperson of the president, and a very high profile spokesperson of the president, and you become the story yourself and there are serious questions about your probity and your honesty, then the question is 'Can you actually fulfill your job properly and effectively,'” he said.

De Vos adds that if Maharaj cannot function effectively, it could also weaken the president.

You May Like

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Indian PM Calls for Unity Amid Tense Climate Over Beef Attacks

Recent series of beef-related incidents seen as signs of rising intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities More

Why These Are New York City's Most Treasured Spaces

Under threat of jail time and fines, some New York property owners are not allowed to renovate their spaces without prior approval More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs