Mr Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela on 16 June and campaigned on a platform of clean government, chastised critics of Ndaweni Mahlangu yesterday for showing "no compassion". He was selected by Mr Mbeki's African National Congress to run Mpumalanga province, east of Johannesburg, which has a reputation for corruption.
Mr Mahlangu had told reporters: "Many politicians publicly deny they did certain things but then later admit to them. It is accepted and is not unusual anywhere in the world. It wasn't the end of Bill Clinton's life and I personally don't find it to be a very bad thing."
Opposition politicians jumped on the remarks, which were also denounced by religious leaders.
However, Mr Mbeki did call Mr Mahlangu's remarks "fundamentally wrong" and noted he had apologised for making a "grievous error". (AP)Reuse content