Presidency miffed at 'unacceptable' newspaper report

2014-12-21 13:11
Mac Maharaj (File, Sapa)

Mac Maharaj (File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - A Sunday newspaper has totally disregarded the Presidency's response to questions on an energy department official the paper identified as a nuclear adviser to President Jacob Zuma. the Presidency said on Sunday.

"The side of the Presidency has been completely omitted in the story," spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

"This behaviour flies in the face of all journalistic norms and ethics and is completely unacceptable."

Maharaj was responding to a report in the Sunday Times that "the man behind Zuma's nuclear project" was a favourite for a senior government post.

The newspaper reported that Senti Thobejane, "special adviser" to Zuma and Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, was one of three candidates for the director-general post in the department.

Thobejane was Zuma's preferred candidate while Joemat-Pettersson opposed him.

Maharaj said on Sunday that the Presidency was surprised that the Sunday Times had "totally disregarded" its responses to questions on Thobejane.

The newspaper had "incorrectly identified" Thobejane as an adviser to Zuma in its report, after it sent questions and asked if he was a technical adviser and what position he held in the Presidency, he said.

"A response was sent back promptly on the same day, indicating that Mr Thobejane was not in the employ of the Presidency and held no position in the institution," said Maharaj.

"Officials of government departments are asked from time to time to provide information to the Presidency. Mr Thobejane, like other officials in the department of energy, is requested at times to provide information on areas that he has expertise in."

Maharaj said such officials did not automatically become advisers to the Presidency or the president and they remained officials of the departments where they were employed.

The Sunday Times reported that Thobejane said he was approached to advise Zuma on nuclear matters in 2011 and was appointed adviser to the then energy minister.

"I was appointed by the ministry of energy, but one of my functions is to provide advisory services to the president," Thobejane was quoted as saying.

According to the report, Thobejane refused to be vetted after Joemat-Pettersson was appointed and said Zuma had used his prerogative to give him security clearance when the president appointed him as his adviser.

The newspaper reported that Thobejane played a key role in the nuclear agreements the country signed with Russia, France, China, South Korea, America and Japan, and that he was in Russia with Zuma in August.

Read more on:    mac maharaj  |  tina joemat-pettersson  |  jacob zuma
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