Report clears Sexwale and Motlanthe

2011-10-23 08:02

The Donen Commission report into the Oilgate scandal is set to exonerate presidential hopeful Tokyo Sexwale from allegations of paying bribes to Saddam Hussein’s government in return for oil concessions when it is eventually released in December.

The report is also likely to come up with a set of recommendations to tighten control over how South African companies and individuals do business abroad – particularly with nations facing UN sanctions – to ensure the country meets its obligations to abide by UN resolutions as a member of the world body.

The commission was established by former president Thabo Mbeki in February 2006, on the eve of South Africa’s becoming the first African state to occupy a non-permanent seat on the UN’s Security Council, to deal with the embarrassing allegations of the ANC and local companies cutting oil deals with Iraq in contravention of UN sanctions.

A source close to the probe described the speculation that its release is aimed at taking Sexwale and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe out of the ANC’s succession race by nailing them over the dodgy Iraqi oil deals as “a storm in a teacup”.

The source said: “The commission was about cleaning up South Africa’s image ahead of taking up the Security Council seat and preventing future sanctions busting by South Africans, in response to the call from the UN secretary-general to member states to take steps to identify sanction- busters and prevent these activities in the future.”

The commission used the report of the UN’s Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) into abuses of the UN oil-for-food programme – which carried a disclaimer over the methodology used by the IIC and the lack of response from the South African companies and individuals alleged to be involved – as the basis of its investigation.

It had to wrap up its work in three months – later extended to nine – while a bid by advocate Michael Donen, SC, to have the commission’s powers increased to subpoena witnesses under oath failed.

The commission probed the purchase of 2?million barrels of oil by Sandi Majali’s Montega Trading (Pty) Ltd and a second transaction for 6?million by his Imvume Management (Pty) Ltd, both of which had been probed by the IIC. The committee found that although Majali had agreed to pay illicit surcharges, he failed to do so.

It found that Majali, who died under mysterious circumstances last year, did make an “advance” payment of $60 000.

Majali was accompanied on his trips to Iraq by top ANC and government officials – including Motlanthe – with Majali describing himself as an adviser to both the ANC and Mbeki.

Motlanthe’s spokesperson, Thabo Masebe, yesterday referred queries about the deputy president’s trip with Majali to the ANC, saying the party was better placed to answer those questions.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said: “We have no records of the ANC having benefited. We have no comment to make on the release of the Donen report.”

The commission also probed the transaction for 10 million barrels to Mocoh Services South Africa (Pty) Ltd, a company in which Sexwale was involved with trader Michael Hacking. The IIC report said Hacking had paid more than $574 000 in kickbacks in return for the oil concession.

On top of the Mocoh deal, Sexwale was allegedly offered a further allocation of 5.8 million barrels which he reportedly told the inquiry were never lifted.

Sexwale’s spokesperson, Xolani Xundu, yesterday said the minister cooperated with the Donen investigation at the time.
Additional transactions by other local companies, like Omni Oil, Ape Pumps (Pty) Ltd and Falcon Trading Limited were also probed but none cooperated with either the ICC or the Donen Commission.

Advocate Donen refused to comment on the late release of the report beyond saying: “We reported to the president and made our recommendations. To release it or not is the presidential prerogative.

“What I would like is for the recommendations to be implemented. Then I think we would have done a good job towards ensuring that South Africa meets its UN obligations in terms of sanctions ... as a member state,” Donen said.

President Jacob Zuma’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, told City Press that the decision to release the report was taken after consideration of the “court action (by Independent Newspapers), the nature of the issues involved and the incompleteness of the report”.

As to the timing, under the current political context, Maharaj said: “There is no question that can separate the governance of a country from the politics of the country. But no single issue has been overriding?.?.?.?And we know, the president knows, whatever he does the climate of opinion among many opinion-makers is such that if he didn’t release it, he’d be accused of hiding information.

“If he releases it, he’s accused of vindictively acting. Nowhere are you allowing in the paradigm of your possibilities the fact that he does take the national interest into account as well.”

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