Zwane heckled over Guptas in budget speech

2016-04-19 20:53
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. (Photo: Mining Indaba)

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. (Photo: Mining Indaba)

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Cape Town – Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane was dogged by heckles of "Where are the Guptas" during his budget vote speech in Parliament on Tuesday.

The heckling by opposition MPs started as soon as the man in charge of the portfolio that manages South Africa's estimated R50 trillion in mineral wealth acknowledged those present for the debate and continued relentlessly.

Zwane, who was appointed last September when President Jacob Zuma suddenly moved his predecessor Ngoako Ramatlhodi to the public service ministry, was accused of being too close to the wealthy industrialists when he joined them on a trip to Switzerland during negotiations to buy Glencore's Optimum colliery.

The Financial Mail reported his spokesperson as explaining Zwane had offered his support as he would with any other company.

FF Plus MP Anton Alberts asked whether Zwane would accompany him on a hypothetical trip to Lichtenstein to convince an owner to sell. "But perhaps I am not Gupta enough for you," he quipped.

Earlier this year a former ANC MP, Vygie Mentor, and Deputy Finance Minister Jonas Mcebisi made the startling allegation that they were offered ministerial positions by the Gupta brothers after meeting them at their home in Saxonwold, launching a discussion on state capture by private business. The Gupta family has since left South Africa.

Legislation in the doldrums

The EFF said they would not approve the budget because they did not trust Zwane and accused him of criminal behaviour.

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu said it was Zwane who gave permission for a private jet owned by the Guptas to land at Waterkloof Air Force Base to drop off a wedding party.

To put Zwane in charge of the mining portfolio was like "asking a rat or a rodent to guard the cheese", Shivambu said. He also accused Zwane of leaving crucial mining-related legislation in the doldrums.

But Zwane did not take the bait, and focused on what the department was going to do with the it's R1.6bn allocation.

He expected 7 000 jobs to come out of around 120 social and labour programmes which work on community development in mining towns, he said, adding that the 83 mining licences granted in the past three years had the potential to create 20 000 jobs.

The Mining Charter had already been reviewed and published in the Government Gazette for comments. South Africa was also finalising plans to start its first watch-making school in conjunction with the Swiss.

He had met with bosses of mining companies and following concerns over some of its objectives over ownership, a follow-up two day meeting will be held soon.

Loss of jobs on mines

The long awaited Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill is with the National House of Traditional Leaders for consideration before it goes through the National Council of Provinces and the National Assembly and the African Exploration, Mining and Finance Corporation (AEMFC) Bill has been concluded and was published in the Government gazette for public comments, he said.

He acknowledged that he was new to the portfolio but replied to the opposition highlighting that at least 29 000 people had lost their jobs on mines last year, by saying this was a worldwide trend.

"This matter is not a matter of the industry in South Africa being governed in a manner that is unbecoming. The value of commodities globally has spiralled and together we are dealing with this."

He would only touch on the Guptas by questioning why there had not been an uproar over major banks closing their accounts to the detriment of thousands of people who might lose their jobs.

"The DA is not interested because it does not touch them," he said.

Read more on:    mosebenzi zwane  |  gupta family

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