Our Lon­don big­wig gets the boot — thanks to the Sun­day Times


South Africa’s dis­graced high com­mis­sioner to the UK, Obed Mlaba, has been re­called fol­low­ing a Sun­day Times ex­posé that he had failed his se­cu­rity clear­ance and was run­ning the high com­mis­sion “like a spaza shop”.

Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions spokesman Clayson Monyela said on Fri­day that Mlaba was re­called af­ter a de­part­men­tal in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­firmed the al­le­ga­tions in the Sun­day Times’s Jan­uary story.

Mlaba, who was ap­pointed in Fe­bru­ary 2014 and had two years to go un­til his term fin­ished, is ex­pected home this week.

He is the sec­ond high com­mis­sioner to be ex­posed by the Sun­day Times and re­called by the depart­ment. Last year the news­pa­per ex­posed high com­mis­sioner to Sin­ga­pore Hazel Fran­cis Ngubeni as a con­victed drug dealer. She was re­called this year.

Among the claims against Mlaba was that he was abus­ing his po­si­tion — one of South Africa’s most se­nior diplo­matic posts — to en­rich him­self, us­ing his of­fice to clinch lu­cra­tive busi­ness deals and seek do­na­tions for his foun­da­tion back home.

Mlaba wrote to a num­ber of busi­nesses, us­ing the em­bassy let­ter­head, to can­vass them for per­sonal busi­ness deals and ideas. The depart­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion found this was a clear con­flict of in­ter­est.

The Sun­day Times also re­ported that Mlaba failed his se­cu­rity clear­ance af­ter be­ing un­able to ex­plain large cash de­posits made into his bank ac­counts.

A let­ter from the State Se­cu­rity Agency, seen by the Sun­day Times, said Mlaba could not tell where the cash came from, or ex­plain why he had been “a sub­ject of a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties at the eThek­wini mu­nic­i­pal­ity”. Mlaba was im­pli­cated in the Manase re­port on al­le­ga­tions of fraud and cor­rup­tion in Dur­ban, where he was mayor from 1996 to 2012. The re­port claims Mlaba tried to award a R3-bil­lion waste man­age­ment con­tract to a com­pany in which he was a silent part­ner and his two daugh­ters were direc­tors.

Mlaba did not re­spond to sev­eral at­tempts to con­tact him. A staff mem­ber at the high com­mis­sion told the Sun­day Times he was at­tend­ing his farewell func­tion.

Obed Mlaba.


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