Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was recently en route to China to receive an academic honour when it was unexpectedly withdrawn – and the blame is being laid at President Jacob Zuma’s door. According to three reliable sources, Motlanthe was “furious” when he was told recently by officials at the South African embassy in Beijing that the department of international relations and cooperation had given instructions that the invitation to Motlanthe from the University of International Business and Economics be turned down. He was told just days before that he, three ministers and several deputy ministers were to leave, Motlanthe’s spokesperson, Thabo Masebe, confirmed. Mac Maharaj, Zuma’s spokesperson, speaking from the Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka on Friday night said: “As far as I know, there is no truth to these allegations.” He denied that relations between Zuma and Motlanthe were strained. But a source in the Union Buildings said: “Motlanthe is very upset. Not because he is no longer receiving the honour, but because of the way it was handled.” The source said there was no direct evidence Zuma was involved, but merely a strong suspicion in government circles this was the case.