Johannesburg - State Security Minister David Mahlobo is considering suing Al Jazeera and several publications over reports of his alleged link to a rhino poaching syndicate.
“It is extremely reckless and mischievous for an internationally renowned broadcaster like Al Jazeera to be broadcasting such misleading content despite our response” Mahlobo said in a statement.
“They are basically linking the fact that I used to visit a Spa in Mpumalanga solely for the services that they render, to the illegal poaching of rhino horns by its owner – which I have also just been made aware of now through the aired broadcast.
City Press reported on Sunday that a self-confessed criminal named Guan Jiang Guang openly brags about bribing South African justice and immigration officials in the Al Jazeera documentary.
Video secretly recorded by an undercover investigator shows Guan – a “businessman” and massage parlour owner in Mbombela – swiping through photographs on his phone that appear to show him and Mahlobo.
“He came to my massage parlour every week, or at least twice a month,” Guan says. “I know him well?…?[He was] a guest at my home.”
One of the photographs appears to show Mahlobo with a young woman, described by Guan as “one of my manicure girls”.
Mahlobo said a number of his “comrades, friends and high profile personalities visit the Mbombela spa, take photos with Guan’s family and some of his staff”.
“Are these individuals now also involved on the illegal rhino trade? People drop names of high profile individuals and take photos-does this mean friendship or connection? I don’t think so”, the minister said.
“I am not a friend of the guy, nor have I been ever to his home or have received any of his employees into my home. Finally my wife has no business relationship with the man or his employees.”
Mahlobo’s spokesperson Brian Dube said on Monday that “at the time Minister Mahlobo visited the Spa, he had no idea as to what Mr Guang was involved in”.
“The flimsy and vague allegation made in the programme by Mr Nigel Morgan that his company’s contract was terminated by Kruger National Parks as a result of possible interference by Minister Mahlobo is rejected and will be dealt with in the appropriate forum,” he said.
“Minister Mahlobo has engaged a legal team to investigate possible defamation action against Al Jazeera, the publications, Mr Guang and Mr Morgan for defamation and the reputational damage that this documentary and the newspaper articles have caused to the State Security Ministry and his family.”
Mahlobo said he requested the Mpumalanga police commissioner to investigate all allegations made against him in the documentary, that the commissioner take action against Guan for illegal rhino poaching activity, and look into claims by Guan that he employs illegal immigrants and circumvents immigration laws.
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