Tolls: Cosatu cashes in

2012-04-01 07:05

Trade union federation Cosatu, an outspoken critic of toll roads, ­secretly benefits from a construction company involved in building new highways.

City Press can reveal that ­Cosatu’s investment arm, Kopano Ke Matla, has shares in Raubex, a construction company that won a tender to build one of Gauteng’s highways that are now being tolled to pay for the construction.

Kopano benefited from the building of the R21, which forms part of the Gauteng Freeway ­Improvement Project.

Raubex received R800 million for the project, which meant ­Kopano cashed in R24 million due to its shareholding of 3% in the construction company.

Raubex also bid for the second phase of the project as well as the N1/N2 Winelands toll roads in the Western Cape.
Raubex lost out on both bids.

The non-executive chairperson of Raubex, Collin Matjila, is also the chief executive of ­Kopano Ke Matla.

The Winelands bid was won by a consortium that included Group Five and Basil Read, but stalled due to provincial government ­objections to the project.

Kopano was also in partnership with Basil Read to build Cosmo City, a mixed-income suburb in ­Johannesburg.

Basil Read won a chunk of the R20 billion Gauteng Freeway ­Improvement Project after a consortium the company led won two portions of the project totalling R1.7 billion.

This week Cosatu had a meeting with the ANC after emotions about e-tolling reached boiling point.

Both parties refused to speak about the meeting, but City Press has learnt that Cosatu general ­secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was confronted with information about Cosatu’s involvement in ­tolling.

“Vavi almost shat in his pants when he was told. The ANC simply said ‘why are you against e-tolling’ and showed him the papers,” said a source with knowledge of the meeting.

Since the meeting, Cosatu has not said a word about tolling. In a joint statement, the two parties said: “Papers presented at the meeting and discussions that ­ensued will not be made public.”

Vavi told City Press he was ­unaware of the investment company’s involvement in toll roads.

“That was only brought to our ­attention in the meeting with the ANC. We were not aware of that. When we checked, we established that they didn’t win the contract. We are not beneficiaries and we, accordingly, asked Kopano to withdraw any further attempts to bid for any of the contracts related to the privatisation of the roads.”

He said Kopano operates at arm’s length from Cosatu, saying it reported to its board of directors, which included members of ­trade union federation Cosatu’s central executive ­committee.

“You know the nature of investment companies is that you don’t control them every day. You don’t know in fact what they are doing unless there is something big, which we will automatically come to know about.”

He said they had issued an ­instruction to Kopano not to get ­involved in social services such as water and electricity, which should be controlled by the state, as doing so compromised Cosatu’s anti­privatisation stance.

“In the case of the Gauteng ­Freeway ­Improvement Project, you would have thought it is ­naivete to think this is not privatisation. It is privatisation. That’s why we are asking them to move out.”

He denied any knowledge of the Western Cape bid, but said the same principle applied irrespective of the province in which ­Kopano did business.

On its website, Kopano bragged about being a “major shareholder in JSE-listed company Raubex Holdings”.

In its 2006 secretariat report, Cosatu said: “Kopano continues to operate within the vision of pursuing investment opportunities in a socially responsible manner that will generate income, and directly and indirectly contribute to the empowerment of workers and their communities.”

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