South Africa: State Capture & Energy Policy – AfricaFocus Bulletin (January 23, 2017)

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South Africa: State Capture & Energy Policy

AfricaFocus Bulletin
January 23, 2017 (170123)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Eskom, accused of overly cozy ties with the Guptas featured heavily
in the report, with 916 mentions. ... it's Eskom's chief executive,
Brian Molefe, who comes out looking the worst. According to cell
phone records, Molefe had 58 phone calls with the eldest of the
Gupta brothers, Ajay Gupta, between August 2015 and March 2016, just
before the Guptas purchased South Africa's Optimum coal mine for
2.15 billion rand ($160 million). Eskom, which prepaid the Gupta's
Tegeta Exploration and Resources 600 million rand for coal, had been
accused of helping to finance the Guptas' coal mine deal through
preferential treatment." - Quartz Africa

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In South Africa, as elsewhere in countries both large and small, the
debates about government energy policy are often framed in terms of
what is best for the "national interest." But few doubt that behind
these choices between renewable energy options and others (fossil
fuels or nuclear energy), there are also private interests, whose
roles in the management of the state are not new but are becoming
more and more blatant (see below on links on the common stakes of
the incoming Trump administration and Russia's Putin in promoting
fossil-fuel interests).

Concentrating on this aspect of what is termed "state capture" in
South Africa, this AfricaFocus Bulletin includes (1) brief excerpts
from the 355-page report on "State of Capture" from Public Protector
Thuli Madonsela; (2) an article with a summary of the report from
Quartz Africa, and (3) an article from The Conversation on the state
capture issue and its effects on plans for nuclear energy.

Two recent articles with background on the energy debate include:

le Cordeur, Matthew, "5 reasons why Eskom is wrong about renewables
costs - CSIR," Jan 12, 2017 - direct URL:

"Eskom delaying R50 billion renewable energy plan to push nuclear
goals," Jan 10, 2017, - direct URL:


Just Announced re State Capture in Mozambique

Watch live on youtube January 25
Zitamar News and Africa Research Institute present: 
A Webinar on Mozambique's Debt Crisis
Wednesday 25 January15:00 Maputo / 13:00 London / 08:00 New York


The Trump Election: Intersecting Explanations

Observations (second installment), Jan 23, 2017

In the period between the election and the inauguration, the
highest profile debate about reasons for the Trump electoral win was
about Putin's intervention. But that debate produced more heat than
light, while key issues such as the common interests of Putin and
the Trump administration in promoting the fossil-fuel industry
received only marginal attention.

See for  short
observations and database entries for 31 sources to date.

Articles on the fossil-fuel connection in particular include:

Joe Romm, "Did Putin help elect Trump to restore $500 billion Exxon
oil deal killed by sanctions?," ThinkProgress, Jan 8, 2017

Rachel Maddow, 5-minute video on ExxonMobil & Russia deal, Dec. 20,
2016 at

Alex Steffen, "Trump, Putin and the Pipelines to Nowhere
You can't understand what Trump's doing to America without
understanding the 'Carbon Bubble'," Dec 15, 2016,
- Direct URL:

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

"State of Capture": A Report of the Public Protector

14 October 2016

Full 355-page report in pdf available at

5. Evidence and Information Obtained


5.1. The Gupta family, originating from India, arrived in South
Africa in 1993. They  established businesses in South Africa with
their notable business being a computer  assembly and distribution
company called Sahara Computers. The family is led by  three
brothers Ajay Gupta who is the eldest, Atul Gupta and Rajesh Gupta
who is  the youngest. Rajesh is commonly known as "Tony". According
to a letter submitted  to my office, total revenues from their
business activities for the 2016 financial year  amounted to R2,6
billion, with government contracts contributing a total of R235
million of the revenues.

5.2. They later diversified their business interests into mining
through the acquisition of  JIC Mining Services, Shiva Uranium and
Tegeta Exploration and Resources,  Optimum Coal Mine and
Koornfontein Coal Mine. They also started a media  company called
TNA Media, which publishes a newspaper called The New Age and  owns
a television channel called ANN7.

5.3. The Gupta family are known friends of the President Zuma.
President Zuma has  openly acknowledged his friendship with them,
most notably during a discussion in  the National Assembly on 19
June 2013 where he admitted that members of the  Gupta family were
his friends. Mr Ajay Gupta ("Mr A. Gupta), also admitted to being
friends with President Zuma when I interviewed him on 4 October

5.4. President Zuma's son, Mr Duduzane Zuma ("Mr D. Zuma") is a
business partner of  the Gupta family through an entity called
Mabengela Investments ("Mabengela").  Mabengela has a 28.5% interest
in Tegeta Exploration and Resources ("Tegeta").  Mr D. Zuma is a
Director of Mabengela.

5.5. Members of the Gupta family and the President Zuma' son, Mr D.
Zuma, have  secured major contracts with Eskom, a major State owned
company, through  Tegeta. Tegeta has secured a 10 year coal supply
agreement ("CSA") with Eskom  SOC Limited ("Eskom") to supply coal
to the Majuba Power station. The entity has  also secured contracts
with Eskom to supply coal to the Hendrina and Arnot power  stations.

5.6.  Eskom CEO, Mr Brian Molefe ("Mr Molefe") is friends with
members of the Gupta  family. Mr A. Gupta admitted during my
interview with him on 4 October 2016 that  Mr Molefe is his "very
good friend" and often visits his home in Saxonwold.

5.7. The New Age newspaper has also secured contracts with some
provincial  government departments and state owned entities, most
notably Eskom and South  African Airways ("SAA").

5.8. The Gupta family recently purchased shares in an entity called
VR Laser Services  ("VR Laser"). VR Laser has major contracts with
Denel SOC Limited ("Denel"), a  State owned armaments manufacturing
company. VR Laser has also partnered with  Denel to apparently seek
business opportunities abroad.

5.9. During March this year, Mr Jonas issued a media statement
alleging that he was  offered the position of Minister of Finance by
members of the Gupta family in  exchange for executive decisions
favourable to the business interests of the Gupta  family, an offer
which he declined. The Gupta family has denied the allegations  made
by Mr Jonas.

5.10. At the time Mr Jonas is alleged to have been offered a Cabinet
post as Minister of  Finance, Mr Nene was occupying the post. Mr
Nene was removed from his post on  9 December 2015 by President Zuma
and replaced with Minister Van Rooyen.  Minister Van Rooyen was
replaced by Minister Gordhan on 14 December 2015 as  Minister of
Finance, 4 days after his appointment.

5.11. Following Mr Jonas' statement, Ms Mentor also issued a
statement to the press  alleging that she was also offered a Cabinet
post by members of the Gupta family in  exchange for executive
decisions favourable to their business interests, an  allegation
denied by the Gupta family.

5.12. The former CEO of Government Communication and Information
System ("GCIS"),  Mr Themba Maseko also issued a statement alleging
that members of the Gupta  family pressured him into placing
government advertisements in the New Age  newspaper. Mr Maseko
further alleged that President Zuma asked him to "help" the  Gupta


What the "State Capture" report tells us about Zuma, the Guptas, and
corruption in South Africa

Lynsey Chutel and Lily Kuo

Quartz Africa, November 2, 2016

It's the report that confirms South Africa's worst fears about
corruption: that the state has been captured. In 355 pages, former
public protector Thuli Madonsela and her team of investigators
outline in detail just how much control the Gupta family, a wealthy
Indian immigrant family, has over South Africa's resources. The
Guptas' close friend, president Jacob Zuma, as well as two ministers
implicated in the report, went to court to stop its release. But it
was finally released on Nov. 2, after protests and a court battle.

The report is potentially damning for Zuma, offering proof that he
sanctioned the use of state companies for personal enrichment. But
now the real reckoning begins, as a web of corruption around Zuma,
the Guptas, and at least three ministers begins to unravel.

Hiring and firing ministers in the Guptas' house

The report contains a detailed interview with deputy finance
minister Mcebisi Jonas, who alleges that the Guptas offered him the
finance minister's post weeks before Zuma was to shuffle three
finance ministers in one week. Jonas was driven to the Guptas' home
by the president's son Duduzane Zuma, where he was met by Ajay

Ajay Gupta allegedly told Jonas they'd been keeping tabs on him and
wanted him to be their man in the treasury. Ajay Gupta revealed that
they'd already made 6 billion rand ($443 million) from dealings with
the government, and wanted to make at least 2 billion rand more
(about $147 million). When Jonas refused, they tried to sweeten the
deal with 600 million rand (about $44 million) and an extra 600,000
rand ($44,318) in cash, right there. Jonas declined the money, and
months later became the whistle-blower that launched this
investigation when he revealed his story in March.

Vytjie Mentor, who came out after Jonas with an account of how the
Guptas tried to offer her the job of minister of public enterprises,
in charge of state-owned companies, also details her exchange with
the family. According to the report (p.89), Mentor was told during a
meeting in October last year at the Guptas' home that she would go
from an ordinary parliamentarian to cabinet minister in a week. All
she had to do was make sure South African Airways dropped their
route between Johannesburg and Mumbai, making way for the Gupta-
linked carrier Jet Airways. Mentor declined. She was surprised to
see the president himself emerge from an adjacent room, who said
"it's okay girl…take care of yourself," as he personally escorted
her out.

According to the report, the Guptas also have the power to fire
ministers seen as stumbling blocks to their plans. Former finance
minister Nhlanhla Nene's insistence on sticking to the rules cost
him his job. As did Barbara Hogan, former minister of public
enterprises, who refused to allow outside influence in appointments
of board members of state-owned South African Airways, Transnet, the
national rail, and Eskom, the state power utility (p. 89, 90). On an
official visit to India, Hogan said she was shocked to find the
Guptas running proceedings. She was relieved of her duties a few
months later.

Des van Rooyen, the unknown parliamentarian who became finance
minister for a few days after Nene, went to court in a bid to delay
the report, fearing it would implicate him. And it has. His phone
records show that van Rooyen visited the Guptas' home seven days in
a row before he was appointed as finance minister. He was later
moved to a less prominent ministry. Van Rooyen has denied any

Negotiating on behalf of the Guptas

Mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane also tried to have the report
delayed, saying it was hastily prepared and that he had not been
given time to respond. According to the report (p. 124, 125), Zwane
travelled to Switzerland on behalf of the Guptas to smooth over
their acquisition of a troubled coal mine from multinational
commodity trader Glencore, helping the Guptas become one of the main
coal suppliers for state utility Eskom. Zwane allegedly helped
facilitate the deal by accompanying delegates from a Gupta resources
company, Tegeta, to Zurich, according to a flight itinerary obtained
by the public protector. Zwane could not be interviewed in time for
the report, but should be allowed to give his version in subsequent
investigations, the report says.

Eskom: Keeping the lights on for the Guptas

Eskom, accused of overly cozy ties with the Guptas featured heavily
in the report, with 916 mentions. Lynn Brown, who became the
minister in charge of South Africa's state owned enterprises, is
implicated in the report for allowing the appointment of a lame-duck
board that turned a blind eye to murky deals made at the energy

But it's Eskom's chief executive, Brian Molefe, who comes out
looking the worst. According to cell phone records, Molefe had 58
phone calls with the eldest of the Gupta brothers, Ajay Gupta,
between August 2015 and March 2016, just before the Guptas purchased
South Africa's Optimum coal mine for 2.15 billion rand ($160
million). Eskom, which prepaid the Gupta's Tegeta Exploration and
Resources 600 million rand for coal, had been accused of helping to
finance the Guptas' coal mine deal through preferential treatment.

The report concludes (p, 20), "it appears that the sole purpose of
awarding contracts to Tegeta to supply Arnot Power Station, was made
solely for the purposes of funding Tegeta and enabling Tegeta to
purchase all shares in OCH [Optimum Coal Holdings]. The only entity
which appears to have benefited from Eskom's decisions with regards
to [the Optimum coal mine deal] was Tegeta." Cellphone records also
put Molefe in the Saxonwold area, where the Guptas live, 19 times
between August and November 2015 and phone calls between Molefe and
Ronica Ragavan, head of the Gupta's holding company, Oakbay
Investments. Justifying these calls and visits, Ajay Gupta told
Madonsela in an interview last month that Molefe is his "very good
friend" who often visits the Gupta compound. But Madonsela says
these records show "a distinct line of communication between Molefe
of Eskom, the Gupta family and directors of their companies… These
links cannot be ignored as Mr Molefe did not declare his
relationship with the Guptas." Eskom hasrefuted any allegations of
wrongdoing. "We do believe everything that we've done so far was
above board," spokesman for the utility, Khulu Phasiwe, told a local
radio station.

Advertising with the Guptas

Themba Maseko, former chief executive of government's communications
agency, in charge of a media buying budget of 600 million rand a
year, said he was pressured by the Gupta family to place government
ads in their newspaper the New Age. Maseko was also one of the
whistleblowers who took his story to the media in March.

In an interview with Madonsela in August, Maseko said he was on his
way to a meeting with the Guptas in late 2010 when the president
called him on the phone to say, "The Gupta brothers need your help,
please help them." During the meeting with Ajay Gupta, Gupta told
Maseko that he wanted government advertising channeled to his new
newspaper, the New Age. According to Maseko's account, the
government official told Gupta that he could not decide where
government departments advertise. Gupta responded that this was not
a problem. He would instruct the departments to advertise in the

According to Maseko's account, Gupta instructed Maseko to tell him
"where the funds are and inform the departments to provide the funds
to you and if they refuse, we will deal with them. If you have a
problem with any department, we will summon ministers here." Later
when Maseko refused to take a meeting with a New Age staff, Gupta
told Maseko, "I will talk to your seniors in government and you will
be sorted out." Maseko was fired a few months later.

A bright spot: Integrity in the Treasury

The report shows how the Guptas' plans were repeatedly thwarted by
officials in the treasury (p. 131, 132, and 94). The National
Treasury, in charge of approving deals linked to state-owned
enterprises, stuck to the rules of procurement and public finance.
Treasury officials questioned the Eskom coal deal with Tegeta.
Unable to stop the initial deal, they succeeded in blocking an
extension of the Tegeta contract. These obstructions appear to have
frustrated the Guptas and cost Nene his job. Many speculate that
current finance minister Pravin Gordhan'songoing legal battles are
related to the treasury's resistance to the Guptas influence.

What next?

Zuma, the ministers, and the Guptas have yet to respond to the
damning allegations in the report. Madonsela has since left office,
with state capture report serving as her parting shot in a seven-
year battle against corruption. Still, she's left instructions on
how to use with her findings. Her successor, who has already
started, should bring potentially criminal accusations in the report
to the National Prosecuting Authority and the police's Directorate
for Priority Crime Investigation, better known as the Hawks.

Madonsela has also recommended that the report be taken further by a
commission of inquiry, headed by a judge appointed by the chief
justice of South Africa's constitutional court, Mogoeng Mogoeng.
There are concerns that the prosecuting authority and the Hawks have
been compromised. (They have spearheaded the fraud case against
finance minister Gordhan.) But the public's hopes lie in the chief
justice, who has spoken out harshly against the abuse of power

"Public office bearers ignore their constitutional obligations at
their peril. This is so because constitutionalism‚ accountability
and the rule of law constitute the sharp and mighty sword that
stands ready to chop the ugly head of impunity off its stiffened
neck," Mogeng said in March when he ruled against the president over
his use public funds used to renovate his personal compound in


How the state capture controversy has influenced South Africa's
nuclear build

Harmut Winkler

The Conversation, May 26, 2016

South Africa is facing a critical decision that could see it
investing about R1 trillion – or US$60 billion to $70 billion – in a
fleet of new nuclear power stations. Proponents argue that it will
greatly increase electrical base-load capacity and generate
industrial growth. But opponents believe the high cost would cripple
the country economically.

What should be an economic decision has now been clouded by
controversy, with political pressure to push through the nuclear
build and the increasingly apparent rewards it would bring to
politically linked individuals.

The nuclear expansion programme needs to be considered exceptionally
carefully given that the required financial commitment is roughly
equal to the total South African annual tax revenue. Loan repayments
could place a devastating long-term burden on the public and on the
economy as a whole.

South Africa's energy needs

South Africa is in the process of massively expanding and
modernising its electricity generation capacity. The government-
driven Integrated Resource Plan aims to increase total capacity from
42,000MW (peak demand of 39,000MW) to 85,000MW (peak demand of
68,000MW) in 2030. A key component of this plan is the construction
of facilities to produce 9,600MW of nuclear power. However, this
aspect of the plan has been challenged.

The biggest concern is that nuclear power is too expensive for the
country. The debate gained momentum when the 2013 update to the
2010-2030 electricity plan found that electricity demand is growing
slower than originally anticipated. Peak demand in 2030 is now
expected to range between 52,000 MW and 61,000 MW. There is
consequently widespread belief that new nuclear power stations can
be delayed considerably.

South Africa's energy generation options

South Africa has had remarkable success with speedy, cost-effective
installation of renewable energy power plants. In addition to this,
technologies for harvesting South Africa's plentiful wind and solar
energy resources are rapidly becoming cheaper, raising the question
of whether the country should not invest more in these options
rather than in going nuclear.

The argument that nuclear energy provides a stable base load,
independent of weather conditions, is mitigated by improvements in
energy storage technologies. But also by the fact that South Africa,
with its large coal power production, has a proportionally higher
base load than many highly developed industrialised countries. The
pro-nuclear option is therefore not unavoidable, as nuclear
proponents suggest, but rather a matter for thorough economic

Zuma and the Russians

The nuclear debate gained a political dimension when President Jacob
Zuma and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, started to develop
an unusually close relationship. It culminated in an announcement
that the Russian nuclear developer, Rosatom, had been awarded the
potentially highly lucrative contract to build the new reactors. The
agreement was later denied.

Rosatom was considered the preferred contender, with other bidders
only there to lend the process legitimacy, according to some
observers. The lack of transparency surrounding the process, coupled
with a history of corruption in South African mega-projects like the
arms deal, has made the whole scheme seem suspicious to the broader

A thickening plot

A crucial thread in this saga involves the Shiva uranium mine, about
30km north-west of Pretoria, the country's executive capital. It
originally belonged to a company called Uranium One, a subsidiary of
Russia's Rosatom. It was sold in 2010 to Oakbay Resources, a company
controlled by members of the politically connected Gupta family and
the president's son, in a deal that greatly surprised economists.

The mine was deemed unprofitable and thus unattractive to other
mining companies. But it was still considered worth a whole lot more
than the R270 million paid by Oakbay. The mine would, however,
become highly profitable if it became the uranium supplier to the
new nuclear power stations. Oakbay and its associates therefore have
a very strong incentive for this nuclear build to happen.

It is here that the nuclear build drama feeds into the recent major
controversy surrounding alleged state capture, meaning a corrupt
system where state officials owe their allegiance to politically
connected oligarchs rather than the public interest. This was
highlighted by the shock dismissal of Finance Minister Nhanhla Nene,
a reported nuclear build sceptic, but also by subsequent allegations
of ministerial positions being offered to people by members of the
Gupta family.

Political, legal and civil opposition

The nuclear build's association with the Zuma faction in the ruling
African National Congress (ANC) will be a political hot potato for
decades to come. The whole scandal also offers potential opportunity
to opposition parties. With increasing evidence of individuals
benefiting, opposition parties have found another spot to exploit,
as they did with Nkandla. A post-Zuma government would find it most
convenient to simply dissociate itself from the whole scheme.

The South African courts have been used very effectively by pressure
groups in the past. Already a number of environmental groups have
initiated legal applications, and these might end up being escalated
to the Supreme and Constitutional Courts. This will delay any
building initiative by years.

The South African experience with the 2010 World Cup has shown that
mega-projects can come to fruition when there is broad overall
support for the initiative. At the same time, South Africans can be
very disruptive and obstructive when this is not the case. For
example, the public opposition to e-tolling, an electronic toll
collection on certain roads.

The two leading opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and the
Economic Freedom Fighters, have already expressed their strong
criticism of the planned nuclear build. Their supporters and civil
society in general have demonstrated their capacity for mobilisation
around specific issues. So the potential for an anti-nuclear protest
movement cannot be discounted.

A negative nuclear outlook

Building these plants is a risky business proposition, especially
for Rosatom, which is implicated in the developing scandal. The
recent political mood swing against state capture and a likely
credit rating downgrade add to the risk.

Rosatom has suggested a nuclear build financing option that
effectively amounts to it providing a loan. It is, however,
conceivable that a future government may not honour debt repayments
if there is a view that the construction deal was secured

The narrow public support base and downright hostility in some
quarters to a nuclear build has already effectively stalled local
nuclear construction plans. The level of controversy, high costs and
potential for further disruption mean that the planned
implementation could only proceed under severe social strain.

Such a scenario could very well cost the ruling ANC the 2019
national elections. And the party is becoming increasingly aware of
this. As such, it is posited that the nuclear build will not happen
any time as soon as planned.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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