Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2002-07-16 Reporter: Robyn Chalmers Editor:

Zama Takes Quick Action to Save Business


Publication  Business Day
Date 2002-07-16
Reporter Robyn Chalmers
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The board of Zama Resources Corporation has established a task team to run the affairs of the beleaguered empowerment company after the suspension of CEO and chairman Mcebisi Mlonzi.

The move comes ahead of a board meeting which is due to be held this week.

A key aim of the meeting will be to formulate a strategy on how Zama moves ahead in the face of a spate of misconduct allegations which threaten to undermine its lucrative forestry bid.

The main allegations are that Mlonzi paid R55 000 to public enterprises department chief director Andile Nkuhlu prior to being awarded a R335m state forestry deal; and that Zama paid for the legal fees of former African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni, with the approval of many of its shareholders.

Nkuhlu has since been suspended and the public enterprises department is to conduct an investigation.

The department's directorgeneral Sivi Gounden said they were committed to adhering to the highest standards of corporate governance.

"We are playing a central role in the restructuring of state assets for the long-term benefit of all citizens.

"The entire process could be placed at risk if an impression is formed that we would accept anything less than total integrity made visible in a transparent and open process," he said.

The forestry deal saw Zama recently beating an Indian firm Paharpur to be named as preferred bidder to buy forests in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, jointly called the Komatiland Forests.

After the allegations emerged 10 days ago, Zama suspended Mlonzi.

It has since appointed financial services consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers to undertake an independent investigation into the allegations.

Rather than appointing an acting CEO to run Zama while the investigation is under way, the board has set up a task team with three active members which have been given a mandate to run Zama in the interim.

The team is made up of businessmen Gordon Sibiya, Mlungisi Kwini and Gerhard le Roux.

Sibiya said at the weekend that despite the allegations, the board felt confident it would be able to continue talks with government on the forestry bids. "The last thing we want is to see the bid being derailed," he said.

Sibiya also said the board planned to meet shareholders to discuss their concerns. "This is all very painful, particularly for those of us who are new on the board," he said.

With acknowledgements to Robyn Chalmers and Business Day.