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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Zuma minister sends back Mercedes

South Africa's new Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele has returned a Mercedes Benz car he was given by contractors after coming under pressure to do so.

Mr Ndebele returned the car plus two cows, although he said after consulting President Jacob Zuma that he had done nothing wrong and was not compelled to.

However, he said it was "just less hassle" to return the unsolicited gift.

Opposition groups, as well as allies of the ruling ANC, had told Mr Ndebele to "do the right thing".

He had said the gift was not solicited and that it was planned before he was named minister.

"I am not compelled to return it," Mr Ndebele said at a press conference announcing the return of the gift.

"What the president and office bearers say is that there is nothing wrong with it, absolutely... but I prefer to have it this way because it's just less hassle."

Mr Ndebele was given the car, worth around $120,000 (£77,000), at a farewell party for him in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday before he left to join the national government.

'Careful scrutiny'

Vukuzakhe contractors made the gift to thank him for helping small companies while he was provincial transport minister in KwaZulu-Natal from 1994-2004. During that time, Vukuzakhe won contracts worth nearly $50m (£32m).

Malesela Maleka, spokesperson for the South African Communist Party, which is in government with the ANC, had said Mr Ndebele should give back the car.

"Things such as this gift for Ndebele, as a matter of principle, even a gift from one's uncle who is in business, should be scrutinised very carefully," he said.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance also said the car should be returned.

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