ANC Looms Large in Brett Kebble's Western Areas Deal
A black empowerment consortium, which includes the spouses of two African National Congress (ANC) cabinet ministers, has bought a 13% stake in Western Areas gold mine, in a R712,8m deal which observers said would cement Western Areas CE Brett Kebble's already close ties with the ruling party.
The dominance of ANC members in the consortium revives debate about whether rules are needed to prevent the perception that business is "buying influence" in deals with politicians and their family members.
Critics have previously accused Kebble of trying to secure political favour with the ANC through business dealings with party heavyweights, a charge Kebble denies.
Kebble, who is facing what he says are trumped-up criminal charges, also donated R500 000 to the ANC last year.
Yesterday's deal in which Anglo American finally exited its 18% stake in Western Areas by selling 13% to the consortium and the other 5% to Kebble's Randgold & Exploration revived that debate.
Former Transnet CEO Mafika Mkwanazi leads the consortium and must now find R512m to pay Anglo American before November for that 13% with an option to take the other 5% from Randgold for R200m.
But the concern is the largest shareholder, the OrlyFunt Holdings consortium, which is heavily ANCoriented.
It includes Thuthukile Skweyiya, the wife of Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya, and Sharif Pandor, the husband of Education Minister Naledi Pandor.
It also boasts ANC veteran Andrew Mlangeni, ANC Youth League national executive member Songezo Mjongile and youth league member Lunga Ncwana, who passed Kebble's R500000 donation on to the ANC.
Former ANC Western Cape MP and ANC Women's League member Hilda Ndude is also a member of OrlyFunt.
Last night, Kebble said he was "not at all responsible for assembling this consortium" and Mkwanazi had unfettered choice over who to include. "There are many deals announced every day which contain linkages to power groups and various parties. To suggest that anyone was included in this deal for a specific reason is rubbish," he said. But he said he was delighted with the members.
Mkwanazi said he had "complete confidence that no issues of a conflict of interest would arise" as Western Areas was not really going to bid for any government work. "I don't see the opportunity to leverage any political influence," he said.
But BusinessMap director Reg Rumney said that where politicians or those close to politicians take roles in business, "this opens the door for corruption due to conflicts of interests that may arise".
Institute for a Democratic SA analyst Judith February said it showed the need for appropriate rules enforcing disclosure of political donations to avoid the perception that companies benefited through this.
With acknowledgements to Rob Rose and the Business Day.