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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi lawyers up, denies he solicited R500 million bribe in UIF deal

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Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has spoken out against the allegations levelled against him and two other Cabinet ministers, including the African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula.

He has now approached the courts to not only set aside the business deal between Thuja Holdings chief executive Mthunzi Mdwaba and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), but to also defend the allegations that he and others solicited a R500 million bribe from Mdwaba.

“The real issue is whether the Thuja deal is legal and valid, and due processes were followed in terms of the law. This is an issue to be settled by the court. Mdwaba’s 10% bribe allegation will also be placed on record and subjected to the scrutiny of the Court,” Nxesi said.

The R5 billion agreement between Thuja Holdings and the UIF was concluded in December 2022; however, Nxesi called for the suspension of the Thuja Capital Fund Project after it had been brought into question by media reports.

In early November, Mdwaba publicly alleged that “middle-men” attempted to facilitate a R500 million bribe on behalf of Nxesi, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, and Mbalula.

Mdwaba was adamant that the deal failed because he refused to pay the bribes.

Nxesi called a media briefing on Thursday to address the allegations. He said he has since signed his affidavit and intends on filing a court application to set aside the job creation and skills development agreement with Thuja.

“Where would you even put or hide such an amount? How would I be able to siphon off money from a deal I have already stopped?” Nxesi asked in his briefing.

According to Nxesi, the source of Mdwaba’s bitterness towards him personally dates back to Mdwaba’s failed attempt to secure the position of Director General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), when government withdrew its support for his candidature after it emerged that he failed to disclose that the South African courts had declared him to be a delinquent director.

“Government was also made aware of a court judgment in the Western Cape that had found that Mdwaba is a lawbreaker, was not an honest witness, and lacked the elementary attributes of good leadership for the position he held at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) as chairperson of Council,” Nxesi said.

He said Mdwaba would now have to prove the allegations against the ministers in a court of law.

Nxesi said he brought the court application on an urgent basis, and in his affidavit, he challenged Mdwaba to present his evidence in support of his allegations that he demanded any payment of a corrupt fee in relation to the Thuja/ UIF agreement.

“If he cannot produce that evidence, I have asked the court for an interdict to stop him from promoting his campaign of false and unsupported lies,” he said.

In addition, Nxesi said he has also requested President Cyril Ramaphosa issue a specific proclamation to have this agreement investigated by law enforcement agencies.

“It seems that Mdwaba has not approached law enforcement authorities to report the alleged crimes because he is content with making unsupported allegations against me, in the hope that if he throws enough mud, some of it will stick. This strategy and the allegations will be tested in court,” Nxesi said.

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