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.