Cape Town - Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane compared his relationship with the Gupta family with that of Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani and Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg on Monday.
Zwane said his relationship with the Guptas should therefore not be an issue, he told media at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town.
“I engage with them on the issues of the country, I engage with them on the issues of asking them to invest more in South Africa,” he said. “I will continue to deal with a number of CEOs and I will move to other countries to talk to them to attract investment.”
Zwane said he will raise issues of transformation with the mining leaders. “I look forward to getting new players and entrants in the sector,” he said.
“Let’s develop this country, let’s have black champions in mining. We want to be upfront about this. People will eventually understand our ways of working.”
Zwane once again denied allegations that he forced Glencore’s hand in selling its Optimum Coal mine to Tegeta, which is owned by the Gupta’s Oakbay Resources.
“Glencore is a reputable company,” he said. “We should also respect the fact that the Glencore CEO is the most firm person I have met. The minister cannot just go to the CEO and tell him what to do.
“Optimum coal was in business rescue. It needed to be rescued in a particular way. The only player who was willing to rescue it was Tegeta,” he said. “I have not instructed anyone to give anyone a favour.”
According to Bloomberg the Sunday Times reported that Zwane met Glasenberg for talks at the Dolder Grand Hotel in Zurich about the matter.
Zwane's involvement in the sale was for the purpose of preserving Optimum’s 3 000 jobs, he said on Friday at a presentation arranged in Johannesburg by TNA Media, another company controlled by the Gupta family. When asked whether he took part in talks between Glencore and Tegeta, Zwane said he flew to Zurich on a commercial flight without the presence of the Guptas.
“I will not favour any businessperson - whether the Guptas - unduly so, but I will not hesitate to help in instances, especially like Optimum Coal, where a business was put in business rescue.”
The Gupta family have built a business empire spanning computer equipment, media and mining since Atul Gupta arrived in South Africa from Uttar Pradesh, India in 1993. He runs the businesses together with his brothers Ajay and Rajesh. Zwane was appointed as minister by Zuma in September.
The sale of Optimum to Tegeta was beneficial for economic transformation in South Africa, Zwane said, referring to a government policy aimed at accelerating black-ownership of businesses as a way to redress disparities caused by apartheid.
“Tegeta is composed of the majority black shareholders,” Zwane said, without elaborating further on the ownership of the company. “We have to come together as leaders and come up with mechanisms so that we transform.”