Kaunda speaks out on allegations
Johannesburg - Deputy director in the Presidency, Lakela Kaunda, on Friday lashed out against the media's portrayal of her as a "bully and a monster".
"It is quite shameful that fabrications can be used to further entrench the image of a bully and a monster that the media has been promoting for months, more so in a booklet that is supposed to showcase the achievements of South African women," she said in a statement.
"In a profile that depicts this frightening woman who runs the Union Buildings and government probably, single-handedly and with an iron fist, the paper repeats the tired allegation amongst others, that Jessie Duarte, the former chief operations officer in the Presidency, 'was forced to quit after... (complaining that) she was being bullied by Kaunda'.
"I do not know the agenda behind these stories which have been published consistently, spreading malicious, untruthful and damaging gossip about me."
Kaunda reiterated that she and Duarte had "never quarrelled at all about anything".
She requested that she be allowed the space to go about her work unhindered and without "persecution from the media".
She added that the allegations were repeated in the booklet - an insert in the weekly M&G -- despite it being ruled against by the Press Ombudsman.
"The newspaper adds a misleading allegation that: 'Even Cabinet Ministers are at times forced to consult with Kaunda before raising issues with Zuma', which implies that Ministers are forced to clear the issues they wish to discuss with the President with me first," she said.
There was "nothing wrong" with ministers calling her if they were looking for him or wanted to "relay messages", she said.
"It is mischievous to problematise this normal activity."
In February, it was reported that Duarte wrote an "emotional email" to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, citing a "smear" campaign, "gossip" and "vilification" as reasons for intending to leave.
The report said Duarte intended to resign over disputes with top aide to President Jacob Zuma and deputy director general in the presidency, Lakela Kaunda, among others.