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Johannesburg - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has welcomed Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report clearing him and his partner Gugu Mtshali of improper involvement in an Iran deal.
"Deputy President Motlanthe and Miss Mtshali have always maintained that they had committed no wrongdoing, and they have been vindicated by the report of the public protector," the deputy president's office said on Friday.
Madonsela's report released on Friday said Motlanthe "was never involved in assisting 360 Aviation to obtain the support of the South African government for the business transaction involving the Islamic Republic of Iran".
Motlanthe asked the public protector to investigate after a Sunday Times report on 11 March 112012.
The report alleged that Mtshali was "implicated in soliciting a R104m bribe to obtain a sanctions-busting deal with Iran".
The article said Mtshali had met associates of Motlanthe and representatives of 360 Aviation, including Barry Oberholzer, at a restaurant in Bryanston, Johannesburg, in February 2011, "to discuss buying government support" for 360 Aviation.
According to the Sunday Times report, Oberholzer said the purpose of the meeting was to secure a letter of government support for the Iran deal from Motlanthe, through his associates.
This was for political protection from prosecution and assistance at a high level in Iran, the protector said.
Motlanthe's office said: "The public protector found no evidence suggesting that either Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe or his partner were involved in any business transaction with Mr Barry Oberholzer."
There were material differences in the words supposedly uttered by Mtshali in the transcript Oberholzer gave to the newspaper, and the recording he made, Motlanthe's office said.
"It is not clear whether Mr Oberholzer or the Sunday Times deliberately distorted the transcript in order to mislead the public about Miss Mtshali's conduct."
The company 360 Aviation allegedly planned to trade aircraft in Iran.
At the time, there were United Nations-imposed sanctions against Iran, which included an arms sales embargo.
The public protector said Mtshali attended part of that meeting, and uttered only the words: "No! ... Hey man Jo, c’mon Jo..."
"Ms Mtshali’s presence and utterance of the above few words do not substantiate a finding that she participated in the meeting or the Iranian deal, or solicited and/or accepted a bribe or gratification in exchange for influencing the Government of South Africa to support 360 Aviation’s Iranian business venture," the protector found.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions also welcomed the protector's finding.
"The federation applauded the deputy president's decision - when the allegations first surfaced - to refer them to the public protector," said spokesperson Patrick Craven.
"As we said, this was an exemplary move by a leader, to subject himself to public scrutiny and accountability so that the truth can be established, and we are pleased that the public protector found no evidence to support the allegations."
Craven urged other public figures subject to similar allegations to follow the example of Motlanthe by referring them to the appropriate public watchdog.
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