Which (honest) local or foreign investor would consider investing in South Africa after reading amaBhungane’s expose of how international mining giant Glencore was allegedly swindled out of a multi-billion rand coal mine by the president and his friends?
It seems as if the evidence of state capture is becoming more apparent and now involves the bullying and possible defrauding of one of the world’s largest mining companies.
It would be telling to hear Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg’s version of events. He has a reputation for being as hard as nails around the negotiation table. He has also done various deals in many developing nations over the years, which, in theory at least, would have put him in good stead to negotiate about a local coal mine that he didn’t want to sell.
But unfortunately, he is not talking… yet.
It is within this context that the allegation by former mineral resource minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, that Eskom duo Brian Molefe and Ben Ngubane tried to bully him into suspending Glencore’s mining licenses to force the payment of a R2 billion penalty to Eskom, is so telling.
It connects many of the dots of events that unfolded over the last few years, and answers some of the questions posed in the Public Protector’s controversial state capture report.
Although Ngubane has denied the allegations in the strongest possible terms, it is clear that the longer the president delays an independent and well-resourced commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations, the more likely these allegations would be proven to be correct.
But don’t hold your breath…
These events and allegations – true or not – continue to accelerate the evaporation of South Africa as an investment destination.
Which investor would pursue an investment when there are very plausible allegations that the president, some of his cabinet ministers and executives of state-owned companies conspire against established international companies?
An interesting hike
These developments reminded me of a very strange event that took place during a hike along the picturesque coastline between Nature’s Valley and Keurbooms Strand in the Western Cape.
It happened a few years ago during the festive season. As we were about to start the popular trail, I recognised the CEO of an international mining company with large operating subsidiaries in South Africa, also getting ready to set off on the same journey.
Our parties started together and during the hike we spoke at length about various developments and challenges that arise when doing business in the country.
He was extremely negative about the operating environment and the political uncertainty. However, he made one statement which I can remember clearly. It was related to ongoing negotiations between one of his big, local operating subsidiaries and a prominent state-owned enterprise (guess which one). He said: “If the government pulls the plug, I will write an editorial and have it published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. The headline will read: ‘Do not invest in South Africa.’ … I am serious. I will never do business in South Africa again.”
Luckily, it wasn’t uttered by Ivan Glasenberg.
Listen to the podcast: The facts Ramathlodi is presenting are ‘well established’