THE South African government decided to extricate scandal-prone deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka after her Arabian trip last month, as she confessed to having contravened the Executive Members� Ethics Act. on January 19, 2006. With the threat of another probe by the public protector looming, and as details of the controversial 500,000 rand taxpayer-funded trip steadily emerged in the media, Mlambo-Ngcuka said, �The way I have messed things up this week I really don�t want to say anything anymore. There�s really true meaning to the statement that everything you say will be used against you.�
Amid ongoing speculation about who had been on the trip with her, presidential spokesman Murphy Morobe confirmed that Thuthukile Mazibuko-Skweyiya, wife of social development minister Zola Skweyiya, did in fact accompany the deputy president to Dubai. Morobe, however, made it clear that Skweyiya and African National Congress (ANC)-linked businessman Saki Macozoma had not gone along. He told reporters that Mlambo-Ngcuka wanted to use her holiday to �learn about the empowerment of women� in large infrastructure projects. �It was in this context that she invited a friend, Miss Thuthukile Mazibuko-Skweyiya, to accompany her. Miss Mazibuko-Skweyiya is contributing on a voluntary basis to the development of a programme for the development of project management skills for infrastructure projects with a particular focus on the empowerment of women.�
Morobe also insisted that Mlambo-Ngcuka had not infringed �any law, regulation or policy prescript�. Opposition parties dismissed the official explanation for Mazibuko-Skweyiya�s presence. The Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Freedom Front Plus called for Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana to investigate whether Mlambo-Ngcuka had abused her office by taking a personal friend on her state-funded excursion. This is the second time the two parties have called on Mushwana to probe Mlambo-Ngcuka�s behavior since she assumed office last year. She was cleared of wrongdoing after it emerged that oil businessman and ANC benefactor Sandi Majali gave money to her brother, Bonga Mlambo, and Mazibuko-Skweyiya.
If the latest call for a probe is successful, it will be the third time Mlambo-Ngcuka is investigated by the public protector�s office. Analysts said the latest storm around Mlambo-Ngcuka sent mixed messages to the public about government�s willingness to build a culture of accountability and transparency. �It is clear that a substantial section of the public believes what she did was undermining good governance, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of this particular case. This suggests the presidency will have to reformulate the guidelines in an appropriate manner,� said Paul Graham of policy think-tank Idasa. The South African Communist Party was disturbed by Mlambo-Ngcuka�s trip, the fact that the deputy president was accompanied by individuals with private business interests may raise concerns and public perceptions about possible abuse of state resources to further private accumulation interests.