Publication: Cape Argus Issued: Date: 2007-01-17 Reporter: John Yeld

Essop Pahad Under Fire for Role in Mbeki Book



Cape Argus




John Yeld

Web Link


The Minister in the Presidency, Essop Pahad, is under close scrutiny for apparently giving a false answer to Parliament about his role in organising sponsorship for writer Ronald Suresh Roberts's forthcoming book on President Thabo Mbeki.

But Pahad insists that he responded accurately and correctly.

The book, which is due to be launched at the Cape Town Book Fair on June 16 - nearly two years behind schedule - has been sponsored by Absa to the tune of R1,43 million.

The initial contract was for R1m, and this was subsequently increased to R1,2m and later by another R230 000.

Absa has confirmed that Pahad negotiated the sponsorship deal with it. It is clear from papers filed in Roberts's failed Cape High Court defamation suit against the Sunday Times that Pahad was closely involved in the sponsorship.

In a written reply to questions posed in Parliament by the DA in October 2004 - more than a year after Roberts had signed a contract with Absa - Pahad denied that the Presidency had any role in the sponsorship.

The questions were posed by the DA's Gareth Morgan, who asked: "Whether the Presidency secured R1,2m in corporate sponsorship in respect of a book to be written by a certain person (name furnished) on the president's intellectual traditions as alleged in a certain newspaper …"

Pahad's written reply, on October 15, stated simply: "No."

Asked to comment on the apparent discrepancy, Presidency spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said yesterday that Pahad had been approached with the idea of writing a book on Mbeki and had agreed that "the idea was sound".

"He then, in his personal capacity *1, agreed to assist in facilitating the financing of such a book. It is in this context that he approached (the then chief executive, Nallie Bosman) at Absa.

"Since Dr Pahad made the approach in his personal capacity, the Presidency was not involved in the matter at all."

Therefore, Pahad's "unequivocal" response to the parliamentary question had been correct, Ratshitanga said.

But Morgan is not convinced, and said yesterday that he would submit follow-up questions to Parliament as soon as the rules permitted - "presumably in the next two weeks".

"We have gone back through all the documents and it does seem like Minister Pahad has misled Parliament," he said. "We will be asking the minister to explain the apparent contradiction between his initial answers and the court proceedings.

Responding to questions from the Cape Argus, Absa spokesman Adrian Botha said the banking group had been approached "by Essop Pahad in the President's Office".

"The then chief executive, Nallie Bosman, agreed (to) the sponsorship as a contribution from Absa to record South Africa's historic narrative for future generations."

Pahad's role in the sponsorship is also clear from court papers. These include a May 2005 e-mail sent to Roberts by Pierre Loubser, executive assistant to Absa's group chief executive.

"I hereby confirm the following as agreed to by Minister Essop Pahad and our group chief executive, Dr Steve Booysen," Loubser wrote. "Absa will contribute a further R200 000 which will bring Absa's total contribution to R1 431 000.

With acknowledgements to John Yeld and Cape Argus.

*1       It would seem intuitive that unless all the interactions between Pahad and ABSA in this matter were : then such interactions were in an official capacity.

But a great head teaser for His Highness must now be whether he would want a biography published by someone who has been legally found to be :

While others think of him as :

as well as :

And :

Wotta boy is the Head Honcho's boy.

Sounds like it could be a great read and best seller.