Unanswered questions about leaders’ wealth

2014-09-19 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The release of the register of members’ interests has left a minefield of unanswered questions about the wealth of top ANC leaders.

While the register gives a glimpse of the extent of MPs’ financial interests and property, there are lots of issues hidden away.

Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who has previously come under fire over his shares in mining companies, retains, according to the register, up to 50% holdings in some companies (see graphic).

The Mail & Guardian reported in June that Ramatlhodi, shortly after he was appointed, and holding platinum mine shares worth millions, was closely involved in efforts to end the protracted mine strike.

His special adviser, advocate Mahlodi Muofhe, said yesterday that the minister is busy getting rid of his assets. He had planned to place them in a blind trust, but following legal advice on a possible conflict of interest, resolved to sell them.

“The legal processes are complicated and can’t be handled overnight. The minister could not have foreseen he would be appointed to that post and couldn’t act any earlier,” he said.

Baleka Mbete, whose impartiality as speaker of Parliament has already been called into question, has, according to the register, shares worth about R25 million in Rich Cove Investments (Pty) Ltd, as well as about R2 million in Turncard Trading (Pty) Ltd.

These two companies were reportedly part of a BEE transaction with Goldfields, which got mineral rights for the South Deep mine.

Sister paper Die Burger has previously reported that the Hawks are investigating this deal.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said before the reslease of the register that he would ask the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests to investigate Mbete’s reported involvement in the BEE deal.

The speaker’s office said yesterday that because of her full programme it had not yet been able to get her input on the issue.

Questions also remain over the true extent of the wealth of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who according to Forbes magazine, is one of the 50 richest men in Africa.

It looks as if what he revealed in the register is just the tip of the iceberg.

Ramaphosa declared details of investments worth R76 million in seven companies.

He also declared that he is the beneficiary of a family trust. Details of this are contained in the confidential section of the register, apparently to protect the other beneficiaries’ interests.

Ramaphosa is using this trust, Tshivhase, which has a 30% holding in the Shanduka Group, to separate his business dealings and his role as deputy president.

According to state officials close to Ramaphosa, any investment that could lead to a conflict of interest will be dealt with by the trust and an “independent” person.

Since his return to politics, Ramaphosa has resigned the directorships of 20 companies.

He was given until November 25 to get rid of all conflicts of interest.

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