Share row highlights scramble for DRC’s oil fields

2010-10-09 12:25

The shares dispute between controversial businessman Joe Modibane and oil and gas firm Sacoil Holdings, which is controlled by Tiego Moseneke, brother of Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, has again highlighted the growing scramble for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) rich oil fields.

The wrangle erupted in July, soon after Sacoil was awarded oil exploration rights to Block III in the Albertine Graben area by the DRC’s President Joseph Kabila by presidential decree.

Ironically, the company had a claim on Block I, which was originally given to British firm Tullow Oil and its partner, Heritage, in 2006.

In that year the DRC government gave Tullow and Heritage concessions to Block II.

However, blocks I and II were surprisingly awarded by Kabila four months ago to the nephew of President Jacob Zuma, Khulubuse Zuma, through his companies Caprikat and Foxwhelp, which are registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Sacoil and Tullow expressed unhappiness when news of the Zuma award filtered through and it became clear they had lost their claims to the blocks, which are situated on the shore of Lake Albert on the DRC side of the border.

The Albertine Graben area – where Sacoil’s block III is located – straddles Lake Albert, which is situated on the international border between the DRC and Uganda.

Sacoil chief executive Robin Vela said the company had no intention of taking legal action against the DRC government to reclaim its concessions on block I.

“We are looking to do work in the DRC and we want a constructive solution… It is the prerogative of the DRC government to award blocks to whoever it sees fit,” Vela said.

Across Lake Albert, on the Uganda side, Tullow has made big oil finds, making it likely that massive oil discoveries will also be made on the DRC side.

Modibane also owns an oil block in the Great Lakes region, but on the Burundi side of Lake Tanganyika.

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