JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — Five employees of South Africa's top prosecutor, who is pursuing corruption cases against senior government leaders and politicians, became ill after handling a letter sent anonymously to their boss, the office announced Monday.
Prosecutor Mokotedi Mpshe did not touch the letter, but the five staff members who did complained of headaches and skin rashes Thursday, said Tlali Tlali, a spokesman.
Tlali said speculation that the letter had anything to do with high-profile cases being handled by the prosecutor's office "seems to have no factual basis."
"The contents of the letter seem to suggest that it is from a whistle-blower, as it alleges negative conduct by an employee" of the prosecutor's office, he said.
Mpshe is heading the prosecution of African National Congress party President Jacob Zuma on corruption charges, and the fraud and racketeering case against Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi.
The prosecutor's office also has been investigating several large organized crime cases.
Tlali said that whatever substance was in the letter had yet to be identified by authorities, but that they had ruled out the possibility of "chemical warfare agents" and "extremely hazardous substances."
Mpshe became acting head of the prosecutor's office after President Thabo Mbeki suspended his predecessor.
Tlali said the ill staff members received medical attention at the office and continued working.