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S Africa ANC official admits fraud ahead of vote

world Updated: Feb 13, 2009 12:50 IST

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The spokesman for South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) offered to quit on Friday after he admitted to fraud in the latest corruption scandal to hit the ruling party ahead of an election in April.

Carl Niehaus told local radio stations he forged letters in a former government job and racked up hundreds of thousands of rands in debts to fund a lavish lifestyle.

He said ANC leaders were aware of his financial dealings when he was appointed party spokesman in November and were helping him work out a plan to repay his debts.

The revelations come just over two months before a general election, in which the ANC faces an unprecedented challenge from a new breakaway party that is appealing to voters uneasy with perceived corruption within the ruling party.

ANC leader Jacob Zuma is embroiled in a revived graft case.

Niehaus said the ANC had not yet said whether it would accept his resignation, which he tendered after a local newspaper published the allegations.

"As far as I am concerned my offer for resignation stands this is not the kind of message I would like to see attached to the African National Congress," Niehaus told Talk 702 radio in an interview.

"I've made serious mistakes I've dealt with it openly in the ANC for a number of years."

The ANC is expected to win the April 22 election, making leader Zuma president and cementing its post-apartheid grip on politics in Africa's biggest economy, but it faces its toughest competition from the Congress of the People party.

The Mail & Guardian newspaper reported Niehaus forged signatures while head of a provincial government economic development agency, before resigning in 2005, and borrowed huge sums from ANC politicians and business leaders.

Niehaus confirmed in the article and on the radio that most of the report was true, saying he was sorry and had changed his ways.