JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – The South African government on Tuesday distanced itself from claims by one of its ministers that the country’s ombudswoman is a CIA agent, a charge that drew a sharp response from the US ambassador.
Deputy Defence Minister Kebby Maphatsoe alleged at the weekend that the country’s fearless Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, was a Central Intelligence Agency spy working to destabilise the ruling ANC party and the country.
The remarks caused an uproar and led to US ambassador Patrick Gaspard saying that he would lodge a formal diplomatic complaint.
“We categorically reject the baseless and offensive accusations,” Gaspard said in a tweet. “The ministers should spend their time improving services instead of making baseless comments,” he was later quoted as telling the Cape Times.
The government of President Jacob Zuma responded by disassociating itself from the deputy minister’s claim. “The government distances itself from such accusations,” which do not “reflect the views and thinking of government”, a minister in the presidency, Jeff Radebe, said in a statement.