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Parliament guns for Mosebenzi Zwane over his corrupt Gupta dealings after five-year probe

10th March 2023

By: News24Wire

  

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Six years ago, former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane was a high-flyer in erstwhile president Jacob Zuma's inner circle and a chief lieutenant of the infamous Gupta family.

These days, Zwane finds himself out in the cold and in the political wilderness, with Parliament breathing down his neck over his corrupt dealings with the Guptas.

Parliament's Joint Committee on Ethics and Members' Interests has recommended several sanctions against Zwane following a five-year investigation into a litany of allegations of impropriety levelled against him.

Chief among the sanctions is for Zwane to be suspended from his seat in parliamentary debates for one parliamentary term.

This penalty is due to his participation in the sale of Optimum Coal Mine to Tegeta, a Gupta-owned firm.

Should the National Assembly accept the recommendation, Zwane will not participate in debates until the current parliamentary term ends in May 2024.

The recommended penalty goes beyond the normal reprimand – a 30-day suspension or a fine equal to 30 days' salary.

The Gupta family's acquisition of Optimum Coal Mine was mired in allegations of political interference. Zwane allegedly travelled to Switzerland to meet with Glencore bosses to lobby for the sale of the mine to an entity owned by the politically connected Gupta family.

Power utility Eskom made a R1.68-billion coal prepurchase payment to Tegeta Exploration and Resources, a Gupta-owned entity that was used to buy the mine.

According to the committee, Zwane breached the Code of Conduct.

"In this regard, the member failed to act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in him and failed to maintain public confidence and trust in the integrity of Parliament and thereby engender the respect and confidence that society needs to have in Parliament as a representative institution," the report read.

DA MP James Lorimer and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) separately directed a complaint to the committee against Zwane in June and October 2017, respectively.

The complaints relate to Zwane's tenure as minister of mineral resources. Both parties argued that the appointment of Zwane as mineral resources minister was orchestrated by the Guptas to ensure Tegeta's purchase of Optimum Coal Mine.

It was further claimed that Zwane had to provide approval for the sale of Optimum Coal Mine, and he also assisted Tegeta with the negotiations of the sale.

Another accusation was that Zwane appointed Gupta associates Kuben Moodley as his special adviser and Malcolm Mabaso as his personal adviser.

"This is an alleged conflict of interest. Moodley's company Albatime (Pty) Ltd made a R10-million payment to Tegeta towards the purchase of the Optimum Coal Mine. Mr Moodley's wife served on the board of Eskom as a nonexecutive director from 2014 to 2016. Mr Malcolm is a business associate of Mr [Salim] Essa and also a director of Premium Security Cleaning (Pty) Ltd," the report read.

The complaints emanate from the fifth Parliament, and in November 2019, the committee that was established under the sixth Parliament took a decision to continue with the complaints against Zwane.

Zwane was informed of the investigation in November 2019. He then requested further particulars, and in response, OUTA supplemented its original complaint in January 2020.

As the two complaints covered the same information and time frame, the committee decided to deal with the complaints together.

Further allegations against Zwane were that on 2 December 2015, after his appointment as minister, he travelled on board a private Bombardier jet from Zurich to Dubai in the company of Tony Gupta and Salim Essa.

The report read:This information was obtained from Gupta-leaked emails. Also, the Member (Zwane) spent two days in India with the "Guptas" before flying back to Johannesburg. That during the stay in Dubai, the Member was booked into the five-star Oberoi hotel, which was paid for by Sahara Computers, a company which was owned by the Guptas. The Member was also [in a] chauffeur-driven BMW 7 series at the expense of Sahara Computers.

Zwane has denied most of the allegations against him. He said he travelled to Switzerland on official business relating to job losses and denied travelling with the Guptas or Essa.

The report stated that Zwane told the committee he never stayed at the Oberoi hotel, nor was he chauffeured in a BMW 7 series in December 2015, which was paid for by Gupta companies.

Furthermore, Zwane maintained that he went to Switzerland to meet with Ivan Glasenberg of Glencore to discuss the job losses at Optimum Coal Mine and never pressured anyone to sell the mine. Zwane also told the committee that he never met the Guptas at their Saxonworld estate in Johannesburg.

According to the committee report, Zwane failed to provide any documentary evidence to confirm that the Guptas didn't pay for the travel, hotel stay and chauffeur service.

The committee recommended that Zwane be fined five days' salary for failing to disclose benefits and hospitality for his December 2015 travel to Switzerland, Dubai and India.

The committee also recommended that Zwane be directed to apologise to the National Assembly for appointing special advisors who were business associates of the Guptas.

Zwane has been charged with fraud and corruption relating to the Vrede dairy farm scandal. He had to step aside, according to ANC rules and regulations.

Edited by News24Wire

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