Russia denies meddling in SA Cabinet reshuffle

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Novosti Kremlin, Mikhail Klimentyev, AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Novosti Kremlin, Mikhail Klimentyev, AP)

Cape Town - The Russian Embassy in South Africa has denied weekend reports that it had a hand in SA's most-recent Cabinet reshuffle, saying the reports were "fake news", "slanderous" and "tabloid-grade".

The Sunday Times reported this weekend that a high-level Russian delegation met with President Jacob Zuma just hours before last week’s unexpected Cabinet reshuffle, in an effort to implement a R1 trillion new nuclear build project deal.

On Tuesday, former minister of state security David Mahlobo was appointed SA's new energy minister, and now former energy minister Mmamoloko Kubayi moved to the communications portfolio.

Zuma did not give reasons for the changes.

In a statement, he said: "I thank the former members of the national executive for good service in their previous portfolios."

In a notice posted to its website and tweeted from its official account on Monday afternoon, the Russian Embassy in SA said it was "completely unaware of any high-level Russian delegation coming to South Africa last week".

"Apparently, either these anonymous 'sources' (if they do exist) know more than we do, or they live in some alternate reality…" it said.

It added that Russia did not interfere in the domestic affairs of other sovereign states.

READ: Claim of Zuma reshuffle after Russian meeting

“We are highly disappointed to see yet another example of sensationalism and fake news in [the] South African press, especially in an evident attempt to emulate the worst kind of groundless anti-Russian attacks by some of the global mainstream media,” read the statement.

“We consider this slanderous piece, which is (as usual) based entirely on hearsay and unnamed ‘sources’ information, unfit for a serious publication such as Sunday Times claims to be."

Final warning

The Sunday Times article quoted an unnamed source as saying that the Russian visit "was to deliver what many of us believe to be the final warning to the South African authorities".

The source claimed that members of the Russian military, police, and the intelligence were part of the group.

Rian le Roux, chief economist at Old Mutual Investment, earlier told Fin24 that the latest Cabinet reshuffle was a clear attempt to put nuclear power plans back on track and only made matters worse, even if nuclear power is "still far in the future".

READ: Cabinet reshuffle: Nuclear will place economy in dire danger - economist

Mahlobo is the third energy minister in 2017. Tina Joemat-Pettersson was axed in March after the nuclear programme was halted following a court ruling.

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