Cape Town – Pravin Gordhan, former finance minister and current ANC MP, asked Parliament on Wednesday to look into the disposal of assets by the Gupta family as part of its inquest into state capture.
Although Gordhan did not mention any names, it can be assumed that he was referring to the Gupta family’s sale of media units ANN7 and The New Age newspaper, and most recently Tegeta Exploration and Resources.
Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments has sold Tegeta to Swiss-based Charles King SA for R2.97bn, it announced on Wednesday.
Tegeta is at the centre of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report, which found irregularities in its dealings with Eskom. Brian Molefe stepped down as CEO in 2016 as a result of the report.
“We should have our urgency fuelled by the successive disposals within 48 hours of South African assets,” Gordhan said.
“I’m getting SMSes now telling me the Swiss buyer of Tegeta Resources has an interest in fashion, clothing articles and shoes. So something strange is going on.”
The portfolio committee on public enterprises is convening to discuss the way forward after a meeting with House Assembly chairperson Cedric Frolick to ask for more resources to assist the committee with its probe into Eskom, Transnet and Denel.
MPs from across the political spectrum are outraged that the investigation, which was supposed to start in the first week of August, is being delayed because of the lack of resources.
Gordhan said the committee should as a matter of urgency draw up a list of witnesses, who should be sent letters. If they resist, Parliament should subpoena them and law enforcement agencies should be called in to assist if necessary.
Natasha Mazzone from the Democratic Alliance concurred that the disposal of assets is indeed worrying and called for an urgent meeting with the Department of Public Enterprises.
Gordhan pointed out there are allegations that Eskom management pulled strings to facilitate the Guptas’ purchase of Tegeta.
“If it is indeed proven that state resources were utilised to benefit the purchase of these mines by Oakbay, then we as Parliament need to ask questions about the disposal thereof.
“These are not just ordinary citizens – all these transactions have been implicated in state capture,” Gordhan said.
The sale of the coal mines also raises questions about the safeguarding of coal supplies to Eskom, especially if the narrative by suspended Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh is taken into account. Singh alleged that Glencore, which Oakbay bought Tegeta from, was charging excessively for coal.
“Although we need to be sceptical about these narratives, it raises questions.”
Gordhan also said that Oakbay presented itself as a major black economic empowerment player, but now the Guptas are selling their mine to a foreign entity. “Why didn’t they sell the mine to a black-owned South African business entity?”
Mazzone said South Africa does not have an extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates, which means if the Gupta family leaves the country it will be “difficult to get them back”.
“Omar al-Bashir left South Africa. Grace Mugabe left South Africa. And now there’s a chance that the Guptas may leave South Africa for the UAE,” Mazzone said.
Steve Swart from the African Christian Democratic Party said there’s no reason why South African law enforcement agencies can’t act immediately and freeze the assets of the Gupta family.