Vote not meant to favour MTN

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pretoria - A 2005 vote by South Africa at the International Atomic Energy Agency in a key nuclear proliferation matter was never meant to benefit cellphone giant MTN in its commercial dealings with the government of Iran, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation said on Tuesday.

It was reacting to media reports that alleged a 2005 vote by a representative of the South African government at the IAEA was meant to favour MTN in its dealings with the government of Iran. The vote pertained to a decision that was to be taken in the IAEA on whether to refer the issue of Iran's refusal to allow UN inspectors access to its controversial nuclear programme to the UN's Security Council for further action.

The article alleged that Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane "has admitted that SA's representative was instructed by the government to take a stance in a key nuclear proliferation vote that benefited ANC-connected cellphone giant MTN in its commercial dealings with the government of nuclear pariah Iran."

The department said: "The allegations relating to the person in question are very different from those involving a South African Ambassador who was suspended from duty pending the outcome of an investigation into the latter allegedly accepting an amount of money from a South African cellular phone company. South African officials representing the country at meetings of international organisations receive instructions as to how they should vote on specific issues and cannot make such decisions on their own without prior consultation with the Department's Management, including its political principals."

It reaffirmed the independence of South Africa's foreign policy. "It is therefore inaccurate, malicious and unethical to deduce from the minister's answer that the South African government may have voted in a manner that was intended to benefit a private entity."

No private entity can ever buy or influence South Africa's foreign policy and its execution, said the department. It said the key principles "underpinning our foreign policy include the promotion of human rights, democracy and good governance as well as championing the African Agenda".