Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2004-03-10 Reporter: Donwald Pressly

ANC Youth Defends Business Interests

 

Publication 

Business Day

Date 2004-03-10

Reporter

Donwald Pressly

Web Link

www.bday.co.za

 

The African National Congress's youth wing has argued that there is nothing wrong with its investment vehicles being involved in business activities.

This follows a report in the Mail and Guardian pointing out strong links between one of the league's investment arms and government deals.

In a statement, ANC Youth League president Malusi Gigaba, said it rejected "with contempt" suggestions that it has sold its soul in exchange for what is termed "political capital".

"We have similarly noted with concern the sustained attempts to demonise the Youth League and cast deep aspersions about its leadership," said Gigaba.

"We state categorically that at no stage has the Youth League been involved in any business transaction where political favours were promised in return for funding."

The Mail and Guardian noted that the Progressive Youth Investment Company was set up in 1999 and Lembede Investment Holdings in 2000. Lembede, named after the league's first president, Anton Lembede, is majority owned by the South African Youth Development Trust of which league secretary general Fikila Mbalula was a trustee.

It pointed out that a second trustee was Malose Kekana, chief executive officer of the Umsobomvu Youth Fund - a State supported fund.

While the Mail and Guardian reported that the PYIC was no longer active, Lembede had interests in mining, financial services, forestry, property and telecoms.

It reported that Lembede had an involvement in a consortium that bought high-tech construction material company Fibretek, formerly part of State arms group Denel.

It also reported that it had a small stake in Two Consortium, a bidder for the second national telephone operator licence.

Earlier United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the lack of accountability "we currently witness from the ANC is staggering".

"It is simply unacceptable that a political organization can have business interest in companies that benefit from government tenders," said Holomisa. "If members of the ANC want to go into the corporate world they should do so, but the ANC structures cannot use government influence to get deals that are funded by the taxpayer. That is patently immoral."

Gigaba, who is a Member of Parliament and high on the KwaZulu Natal list for parliament in the April 14 election, viewed it differently:

"The assertions that the involvement of our members in business amounts to impropriety on the part of the ANC Youth League is nothing more than a figment of the writer's imagination and betrays shallow appreciation for the role of the progressive youth movement in advancing our democracy."

According to the Fibretek website it is the registered trade name of Pultrusion Engineering Solutions and is owned jointly by Lembede Investment Holding - described as a black empowerment company - and Plastic Developments Limited, a United Kingdom based company, and a Employees Share Option Trust. It was originally established by the Denel Group in 1996 and sold off as part of the government's privatisation programme.

Lembede has a 50% holding, the UK company 40% and the trust 10%. Directors include Richard Walker (UK), Songezo Mjongile, a national executive committee member of the youth league, and Philip Nieman.

The business it is involved in is described as a "continuous manufacturing process to produce fibre reinforced polymer products, high quality stable structural profiles and these profiles are used to fabricate and manufacture finished products".

Its main projects have included Mintek gold refinery plants and FRP walls for Mozal phases one and two.

With acknowledgements to Donwald Pressly and the Business Day.