‘Not ill’ but Mabuza in Rus­sia on sick leave

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By QAANITAH HUNTER

● One of the perks of be­ing deputy pres­i­dent is that you can go on sick leave even when you’re per­fectly well.

That’s if the bizarre re­sponse given by Deputy Pres­i­dent David Mabuza’s spokesper­son, Thami Ng­wenya, can be be­lieved.

In­sid­ers told the Sun­day Times that Mabuza, who has been out of the pub­lic eye for the past three weeks, had flown to Rus­sia for med­i­cal treat­ment.

But Ng­wenya, asked about Mabuza’s con­di­tion, said his of­fice had never de­scribed the for­mer Mpumalanga premier as sick, even though he was on sick leave.

“At no point did our state­ment say the deputy pres­i­dent is ill, but rather [it] says he is on sick leave. It would be mis­chievous to ask how ill is the deputy pres­i­dent when no such in­fer­ence was made,” he said.

Ng­wenya also did not an­swer ques­tions about who paid for Mabuza’s trip to Rus­sia, only say­ing: “Any costs re­lated to the care of cur­rent and for­mer heads of state are in the am­bit of the rel­e­vant or­gans of state.”

He said Mabuza would re­turn to his of­fice to­mor­row.

The Sun­day Times has es­tab­lished that Mabuza was un­der­go­ing treat­ment in Rus­sia this week for health prob­lems aris­ing from an al­leged poi­son­ing in­ci­dent three years ago.

An ANC leader said the party’s top brass were told that only Rus­sian spe­cial­ists had the ex­per­tise to help Mabuza.

“We thought he would be back by now, but maybe he is more sick than we thought,” the leader said.

An­other se­nior ANC mem­ber close to Mabuza said: “He still doesn’t trust South African doc­tors with his life.”

This source quoted Mabuza as hav­ing told him the trip to Rus­sia was for “a rou­tine check-up and not se­ri­ous at all”. Of­fi­cials in the pres­i­dency were told Mabuza would be back in the Union Build­ings in the com­ing week.

Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s of­fice would not comment on the mat­ter.

His spokesper­son, Khusela Diko, said: “Th­ese mat­ters are best an­swered by the of­fice of the deputy pres­i­dent as they have all the facts about his move­ments since he re­quested time to rest from the pres­i­dent two weeks ago.”

Mabuza’s last pub­lic ap­pear­ance was on Oc­to­ber 20, when he ad­dressed the pres­i­den­tial health sum­mit in Boks­burg.

Two days later, the pres­i­dency is­sued the official di­ary of the pres­i­dent and deputy pres­i­dent, which listed two items for Mabuza this week — an ap­pear­ance in the Na­tional Coun­cil of Provinces (NCOP) on Tues­day and a speech at an event of the South African Na­tional Aids Coun­cil on Thurs­day. He failed to at­tend the NCOP ses­sion and the sec­ond event was can­celled.

Mabuza has been ab­sent from ANC work too. He was not present at last week­end’s spe­cial meet­ing of the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, nor did he meet with other top ANC of­fi­cials.

This is the sec­ond time Mabuza is known to have sought med­i­cal treat­ment in Rus­sia. In 2015 he flew there, in an air­craft owned by the Gupta fam­ily, be­cause he was not re­spond­ing to treat­ment at lo­cal hos­pi­tals for the al­leged poi­son­ing in­ci­dent.

David Mabuza

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