‘There is no special relationship’

2013-06-09 14:00

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Sibusiso “Deebo” Mzobe, the elusive businessman behind the Zumaville project, believes there is nothing wrong with his seemingly unlimited access to the president.

Mzobe, who is Zuma’s cousin, is deputy chairperson of the Masibambisane Community Development Initiative, the rural development organisation the president chairs.

The organisation has made headlines more for being the alleged beneficiary of government largess through Zuma than for its development work.

The organisation assists rural communities around the country with cooperative farming and produce marketing to try and improve the standard of living.

It’s model started in Zuma’s home village of Nxamalala and has – often controversially – been replicated with government assistance in other provinces.

Last week the Sunday Times reported that Mzobe was present on two occasions when Libyan government investigators tracking former president Muammar Gaddafi’s stolen billions met with Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Mzobe said he had been with Zuma discussing Masibambisane business when both meetings – one in Nkandla and one in Pretoria – took place.

He said he had not participated in discussions around Gaddafi but showed them where to find Gordhan.

“I have been in a lot of meetings with a lot of different people. I am normally with the president when he is at home.

“I see him, to give assistance, to discuss projects. I have been working with the president for some time,” Mzobe said.

Mzobe, who this week settled a R7 million claim from a construction partner to avoid liquidation, said his meetings with Zuma took him to Pretoria and other parts of the country where Masibamisane had projects.

“There is no special relationship.

“We are involved in rural development together. We have to meet to talk about projects,” he said.

Mzobe denied being a “bag man” for the Zumas and of giving or channelling money to the president or his family.

“Why would I want to give the president money. Why would people want to give him money? He is employed. I believe he is earning. Instead of us giving him money it is us who have to ask him to give us money,” he said.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj did not respond to questions about Mzobe’s relationship with Zuma.

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