SA foreign policy ‘cannot be bought’

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Government has denied a 2005 vote by SA at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding a key nuclear issue was swayed to favour MTN in its business relations with the government of Iran.

This follows a protracted court case and various allegations against SA’s second cellphone operator initiated by rival celco Turkcell, which lost the grant for a GSM licence in Iran seven years ago.

The Istanbul-based complainant has filed a $4.3 billion claim against MTN, which it accuses of employing bribery and underhanded arms deals to acquire its licence in Iran, ITWeb reports.

Resolute rebuttal

This week, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said the accusations are unfounded, asserting that “no private entity can buy or influence SA’s foreign policy and its execution”.

The department issued a statement in reaction to reports that DIRCO minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane “admitted” to allegations that SA’s representative (Abdul Minty) was instructed by government to take a stance that favoured MTN in its vote regarding key nuclear proliferation for Iran at IAEA.

Last month, the Democratic Alliance called on Nkoana-Mashabane to suspend and investigate Minty, a senior diplomat ambassador, who also holds the position of special representative for disarmament and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

The opposition party said at the time that Minty’s implication in the scandal surrounding MTN’s alleged corruption in the acquisition of the said licence should be investigated, and the senior official suspended. Prior to the call for investigation, SA’s former ambassador to Iran, Yusuf Saloojee, was suspended by the department over allegations that he accepted $200 000 in bribes from MTN to swing the IAEA vote in Iran’s favour.

DIRCO says the allegations against Minty are “very different” from those involving Saloojee. “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.”

Alleged bribery

It is alleged in Turkcell’s court papers that MTN tried to influence SA’s policy on Iran’s nuclear programme. Included in the manuscript are allegations that MTN attempted to influence SA’s vote at the IAEA by trying to influence Minty, who served on the IAEA board, to abstain during a crucial 2005 vote on Iran’s nuclear programme by the IAEA.

Turkcell alleges the following:
* During an official visit to Iran, in 2004, Minty was present at a dinner with Saloojee and MTN representatives, where SA’s position on Iran’s nuclear programme and the mobile operating licence was discussed.
* Representatives of the MTN Group asked Saloojee to call Minty in 2005, ahead of a crucial vote by SA on Iran’s nuclear programme at the IAEA.



MTN has vehemently denied the company tried to influence SA’s nuclear policy.