Zuma’s son slams rail deal reports

2011-02-22 07:22

President Jacob Zuma’s son has slammed a report that he is set to benefit from the government’s multibillion-rand rail infrastructure project.

Duduzane Zuma told eNews in an interview today he was the target of people with a political agenda who wanted to get to his father through him.

“At some point I have to believe that there’s some sort of political agenda at play,” he said.

“I mean I don’t want to get involved in politics. I’m a businessman but this has got absolutely nothing to do with me. I understand that the target is my father. I’m just the conduit in this case. But I’m not going to take it lying down.

“I believe in fighting my own battles. In this case, unfortunately I can’t ignore it. This is my father that they’re targeting. If they want to bring it that way, then that’s the way that we’re going to have to take it.”

Duduzane said he was the victim of “faceless cowards” who were “sitting in the background pushing all sorts of information forward”.

“They need to come out into the open. We need to see who we’re dealing with,” he said, adding that his name had been a disadvantage to him in business.

“As for the name being a curse, at this present moment that is all it is. At this point it’s definitely not a blessing.

“I mean, I love my name. I respect it and hold it to the highest value. This my father we’re talking about. He’s my father first before any politician or a struggle veteran or whatever the case may be. He’s my old man.”

The Sunday Times reported this week that Duduzane and business tycoon Rajesh Gupta were directors and shareholders in a deal with China Railway Construction Corporation that placed them “at the forefront” to cash in on government’s R550-billion rail infrastructure programme.

Telkom chairperson Lazarus Zim’s Afripalm Horizons announced the deal in August with one of China’s biggest construction companies when he accompanied the president on a state visit to China.

Menzi Mbatha, a director of Afripalm Horizons, confirmed to the Sunday Times that the shareholding had been finalised and that Gupta’s and Zuma Jnr’s company, Mabengele Investments, “would all have shares”.

Mbatha did not specify the stake each shareholder would own, saying the company expected to announce details next month.

The deal was announced on August 24 and, two days later, according to information in the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office, Zuma Jnr and Gupta were installed as directors of Afripalm Horizons.

South Africa’s rapid-rail infrastructure programme was announced by Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele last year with high-speed links between Johannesburg and Durban, Cape Town and Musina.

The network will cost an estimated R500 billion, while replacing about 8 000 coaches – as part of government’s planned recapitalisation of rolling stock will add at least another R50 billion to the price tag.

According to the Financial Mail, the cost calculation for construction of the Gautrain was R24 billion for every 100km of railway line. A network of more than 2 200km would therefore cost a minimum of R500 billion.

In June, the department is expected to convene an investor conference.

Another link, along the accident-prone Moloto corridor in Gauteng, is also being considered.

The Chinese deal comes after a R9-billion empowerment deal with steel giant ArcelorMittal, in which the Gupta brothers and Duduzane Zuma hold lucrative stakes.

As part of the empowerment deal, entities linked to the Guptas will acquire at least a R3.2-billion chunk.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has slammed the report of the deal.

“We are extremely concerned at the growing perception that the Gupta family is plundering resources of the country to the benefit of Duduzane, the son of the president,” Vavi said yesterday.

He said Cosatu would call on its central executive committee to investigate allegations about the deal.

Young Communist League chairperson David Masondo said the deal was an example of how narrow black economic empowerment had become. He labelled the process ZEE – Zuma Economic Empowerment.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said he was “dismayed” at the report.

“It cannot be justifiable that his family should benefit personally from his position or his trips abroad on government business, such [as] the case in these latest media reports that his son is going to benefit from the multi-billion rand rail projects announced recently by the Minister of Transport. This sends the wrong message entirely.

“It compromises the president and the country, and puts South Africa in the same league as those presidents and countries in northern Africa that have recently been subjected to popular revolt.” 

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