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Mbeki Denies Heath Allegations on South African President Zuma

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, denied claims by the former head of the country’s anti-corruption unit that he had directed prosecutors to charge Jacob Zuma for corruption and rape.

Willem Heath, who resigned Dec. 15 after two weeks as head of the Special Investigations Unit, made the accusation in an interview with Johannesburg-based City Press newspaper Dec. 4.

"All the allegations made by Heath are false, malicious and defamatory," Mbeki wrote in an opinion piece in the newspaper today. "I am ready to defend this assertion in any forum."

The former judge left the Special Investigations Unit after Zuma, the country’s president, instructed his office to investigate the “facts and circumstances surrounding” the interview. Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and Heath agreed that it would be “untenable” for him to continue in his role, according to Radebe’s spokesman Tlali Tlali.

Zuma, who ousted Mbeki as leader of the ruling African National Congress in 2007, was acquitted on rape charges in 2006. Corruption charges against him were dropped in 2009, weeks before he became president. Heath advised Zuma during his corruption trial. He left as head of the Special Investigations Unit more than a decade ago after Mbeki excluded him from investigating a multibillion-rand arms purchase.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gordon Bell in Johannesburg at gbell16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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