Zwane accused of fighting Gupta battles

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane used his inspectors to raid and shut down part of Royal Bafokeng’s mine shortly after the mine gave notice of its intention to cut ties with a Gupta-linked company.

This is according to a number of highly placed sources, who tipped off City Press even before Zwane sent inspectors to Royal Bafokeng’s Rasimone mine in Rustenburg on Thursday.

The raid came after the company served a three-month termination notice on Gupta-owned Aforika Borwa Mining Solutions (ABMS).

The company seems to be an offshoot of Westdawn Investments, the Gupta family’s better-known mining contractor that has traded as JIC Mining Services.

It was identified in a Bell Pottinger brief, which formed part of the #GuptaLeaks emails, as one of the family’s mining investments.

ABMS has as one of its two directors Pushpaveni Govender, who is also a director of the Guptas’ flagship Sahara Computers and Optimum Coal Mine, as well as of VR Laser Services, which is co-owned by Gupta associate Salim Essa.

ABMS’ only other director is Louise Becker, who is also a director of Craysure Investments, the entity that co-owns VR Laser with Essa.

Like all Gupta-linked companies, ABMS used KPMG as its auditor, and KPMG partner Jacques Wessels as its lead auditor, until the middle of the year.

And, like all Gupta companies, KPMG and Wessels were replaced by audit firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo this year.

Mpueleng Pooe, Royal Bafokeng’s executive for corporate affairs, said two areas at its Rasimone Platinum Mine South Shaft were affected.

“I can confirm that a section 54 notice was issued for two areas at south shaft. We are presenting the matter to the department of mineral resources early next week,” said Pooe.

A section 54 work stoppage refers to section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act.

It allows a government mine safety inspector to halt work at a mine, either completely or in part, if the inspector has concerns about safety at the operation.

According to the section 54 notice, which City Press has seen, some of the issues red-flagged at the operation were protruding roof bolts which had not been replaced, substandard rails and poor ventilation.

The notice instructs the mine to withdraw workers as well as halt activities.

THE BIDDING...

. JUNE 2012:

Zwane, then Free State MEC for agriculture, allegedly helps a Gupta-linked company take control of the province’s Vrede dairy – a project that later facilitates alleged money laundering and helps pay for the infamous 2013 wedding of the Gupta family at Sun City.

Zwane and other officials visit India at the Guptas’ expense. 

. SEPTEMBER 2015:

Zwane appointed as minister of mineral resources. 

.NOVEMBER 2015:

Zwane flies to Zurich to meet Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg, apparently to negotiate the Guptas’ acquisition of Optimum Coal Mine. He flies home on the family’s jet. 

. APRIL 2016: Zwane declares himself chair of a nonexistent interministerial committee that goes on to grill major banks about why they dropped the Guptas as clients. 

. SEPTEMBER 2016:

Zwane issues a statement from his supposed committee, saying bank regulation has to change – sparking market panic. Cabinet refutes the statement. 

. JUNE 2017: Zwane releases a new Mining Charter that causes panic.

It is currently under court review for being allegedly unlawful, unreasonable and incomprehensible. 

. AUGUST 2017: Zwane declares himself “executive leader” of state-owned African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation.

He isn’t. 

. OCTOBER 2017: 

Zwane allegedly uses inspectors from the mineral resources department to strong-arm Royal Bafokeng Platinum after it fires a Gupta-owned contractor. - Compiled by Dewald van Rensburg

According to a highly placed source within the mineral resources department, Zwane is seen to have deployed the same tactics he allegedly used when he intervened in favour of the Guptas before they bought Optimum Coal from Glencore.

“He used the same inspectors as those he used when he was squeezing Glencore at Optimum, instead of the local ones, as required,” the source said.

The Guptas stand accused of using their relationships with President Jacob Zuma, a number of Cabinet ministers and top ANC officials to influence the awarding of government tenders and Cabinet appointments.

Numerous South African companies – including the four major banks, financial services company Sasfin and KPMG and SizweNtsalubaGobodo – have cut ties with Gupta-related companies due to concerns about suspicious transactions.

Another source said that, since Royal Bafokeng had served notice on ABMS, work was already under way to spot loopholes in any of their operations.

“Even when they raided Rasimone, they were specific. It was not an inspection. They just went straight to the areas they wanted,” he said.

Fidel Hadebe, spokesperson for the department of mineral resources, called the raid a “routine audit” that was carried out because of noncompliance red flags.

He denied that Royal Bafokeng was targeted.

“The audit is carried out by the mineral resources department. People who perform audit duties do not do so in their individual capacity,” said Hadebe.

“The audit process outcomes are not available. The purpose of the audits is to deal with this ongoing problem of mine accidents. Our purpose is to enhance mine health and safety.

“I am not in a position to make an announcement on any other mine to be visited. The department would be failing in its duties if it did not carry out such audits, regardless of who owns the mine,” he said.

Zwane appeared before Parliament’s portfolio committee on mineral resources on Wednesday to answer to allegations of state capture.

During the hearing, Zwane was questioned on his relationship with the Guptas; on the dairy farm at Vrede in the Free State, from which funds were allegedly diverted via a number of companies to eventually fund a wedding in Sun City for the Gupta family; and on his intervention in the Gupta-Glencore mine deal, which included a trip to Switzerland to facilitate the sale of Optimum to the Guptas.

In response, an evasive Zwane accused the committee of being obsessed with the Guptas and pursuing a personal vendetta against him.

Sahlulele Luzipo, chairperson of the committee, said it would summon Zwane back to answer more questions regarding state capture, but still had to decide on its own parameters for the inquiry.

“We will have to call him again because members have more questions for him. We also have to discuss among ourselves whether the matter of ethical conduct belongs with us or another committee,” he said.

Zwane has also been taken to court by the Chamber of Mines over the latest controversial Mining Charter.

The case is set to be heard in the High Court in Pretoria on December 13 and 14.

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