Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: South African envoy’s ‘spaza embassy’ in UK

One of South Africa’s most influential diplomats is accused of running his embassy “like a spaza shop”, brokering personal business deals with international companies and soliciting donations for his foundation. Obed Mlaba, South Africa’s high commissioner to the UK, has been sending letters to directors of various companies operating in the UK and South Africa, on government letterheads, to secure business deals for his personal projects. The projects include the building of a technical school and a private hospital in KwaZulu-Natal under the auspices of the Obed Mlaba Foundation Trust. As far back as 2015, Mlaba received queries from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation regarding his “potential conflict of interest” relating to the nondisclosure of his financial interests. Yet no action has been taken against him. Mlaba said this week that there was nothing inappropriate about his deals, but two South African businessmen based in London said he was known for abusing his position for personal gain.



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