President Cyril Ramaphosa has denied claims that his business partnership with commodities company Glencore in 2012 was based on his political influence as an ANC heavyweight.
The partnership saw Ramaphosa gaining a stake in Optimum Coal Mine, a Glencore subsidiary at the time, and becoming its chairman.
Brian Molefe’s claims against Ramaphosa
Testifying at the state capture commission of inquiry on Friday, former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe claimed Glencore had roped in Ramaphosa so he could influence Eskom’s management regarding Optimum’s dealings with Eskom.
He claimed, “That was a strategic decision to use the former Secretary-General of the African National Congress, former General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers [and] a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC at the time.
“They knew that the profitability of the company [Optimum] will only come from a successful renegotiation of the coal price and ignoring by Eskom of the penalties that were accumulating at the time. Mr Ramaphosa was their bet.
“The profitability of Optimum was therefore dependent on the peddling of political influence and the extent to which Glencore would be able to exert pressure on Eskom directors and management.”
Speaking during an interview with Radio 702 on Friday, Ramaphosa said claims that he used political influence to benefit Optimum and Glencore were untrue.
He added, “In as far as Mr Brian Molefe’s testimony is concerned, I think that there is a lot of untruth in saying that I got shares because I wanted to advance the interests of Glencore. Far from the truth.
“Obviously, people will throw stories around to try and tarnish people, but I will respond to the real facts and deal with them as far as I’m concerned. I will be having my own opportunity to testify before the Zondo Commission.”
Molefe also claimed there may have been conflict of interest when Ramaphosa became the chairman of the Eskom “war room” in December 2014 after he became Deputy President of South Africa.
He claimed this was because Ramaphosa’s divestment from Optimum was still pending before the Competition Commission in August 2014. [Note: Eskom war room was however appointed in December 2014.]
In another interview with Power FM, Ramaphosa reiterated that he divested from all his business interests soon after becoming Deputy President of South Africa.
The President explained, “I did exit those business dealings and I am going to explain in full and in detail when I appear before the Zondo Commission without even being afraid or concerned about anything because the issue of conflict of interest I have always taken very seriously.
“I have always sought to ensure that whatever position I am in, I should never be in a conflict of interest situation where I advance, through underhand means, my own interests.”