Jovial Zuma dines with mining bosses

2012-06-26 06:08

President Jacob Zuma dined with mining bosses last night as the ANC kicked off its four-day policy conference with a glamorous fund-raising gala dinner, where tables near Zuma went for up to R500 000.

Zuma was in a jovial mood as he urged more participation in party policy for the more than 500 guests, comprising business people, party hacks, ministers, government officials, diplomats, Indian, Chinese, Russian and Brazilian delegates from the Brics colloquium earlier yesterday.

“Participate in the policies that must guide us,” he said.

He added jokingly: “I don’t know what it feels like not to be a member of the ANC. Someone must tell me one day how that must feel. This is an organisation where there is a continual space for discussion and debate.

"It is absolutely an organisation that I think is important for the country. I think it’s an organisation that thinks hard about the future of this country, that worries about the future of this country.”

At table number one, an oblong table right by the stage decorated with a huge ANC flag in the Gallagher Convention Centre hall in Midrand, AngloPlats CEO Neville Nicolau sat on Zuma’s right hand, while Zuma’s latest wife, Bongi Ngema, whom Zuma recently took to the G20 summit in Mexico and to the Rio Plus Twenty summit in Rio de Janeiro, sat to Zuma’s left.

African Rainbow Minerals chairperson Patrice Motsepe was seated to Nicolau’s right, while Motsepe’s wife, Precious, sat on Ngema’s other side.

Motsepe is a regular at Zuma’s table during ANC fund-raising dinners and was at his side too at the party’s 2010 national general council gala dinner.

The fund-raising dinner was organised by the party’s Progressive Business Forum.

Eskom CEO Brian Dames, whom Nicolau privately joked was “mostly in the dark”, was seated next to Motsepe, with Graham Briggs from Harmony next to him.

Mike Schmidt, Jan Steenkamp and Steve Mashalani from African Rainbow Minerals were also at the table, but organisers said they were there as “guests of the president” when asked how much ARM forked out for the table.

Mining Minister Susan Shabangu was also at hand for any mining-related discussions that might arise.

The nationalisation of mines is one of the major issues up for discussion at the party’s conference, which Zuma is set to open this morning.

The matter will be discussed behind closed doors, but an ANC research team has found that wholesale nationalisation is too expensive for the country.

Views in the party are mixed on the matter, with provinces like Limpopo still pushing for nationalisation.

At the other oblong table in the front, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe entertained some of the party’s top six officials, including treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, chairperson Baleka Mbete, as well as head of monitoring in Luthuli House, Jessie Duarte, ANC head of policy and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, SA High Commissioner in Britain Zola Skweyiya, businessman Eric Ichikowitz and Victor Zazeraj, who said he wasn’t originally seated at the table.

Table decorations were stylish but low-key, with glass vases sporting proteas and arum lilies on a mirror centrepiece on the tables, which were covered with gold-coloured table cloths.

Guests feasted on avocado, cream cheese and biltong timbale served with peppadew salsa and a leek and spring onion-saffron dressing for starters.

Main course was “oven-roasted Greek-style fillet of beef served with pan-fried baby vegetables, oven-baked potato gratin, topped with a bordelaise sauce”, and sweets after was a “trio of mini creme brûlée, decadent chocolate ganache and layered triple chocolate mousse served with a minted berry sauce”.

L’Huguenot Wines sponsored a 2009 shiraz, a 2010 pinotage, and a 2011 chenin blanc to wash the food down with, while The Centenary Trio and the Just-Friends Jazz Band provided entertainment.

Other sponsors of the event, whose brand names adorned the walls and the big screens, included Emirates, Nedbank, Protea Hotels, African Pride, Alexander Forbes, Shanduka, Sebilo Resources, Tata, Basil Read, TSLS Holdings, Altech, Absa, Nissan and Morvest.

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