Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane has once again denied travelling with the Guptas on their trip to Switzerland in January to persuade Glencore to sell Optimum coal mine to their companies Oakbay and Tegeta.
In an written reply to Democratic Alliance MP James Lorimer, Zwane on Wednesday said the allegation “is not correct”.
“The objective of the only reported official trip, to Switzerland which took place in 2015, was widely reported, and even in Parliament.
“The ministry denies any knowledge of the said trip to Switzerland in January 2016, and is therefore unable to respond further.”
Reports alleged that Zwane had met Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg for talks at the Dolder Grand Hotel in Zurich about the matter.
In February, Fin24 quoted Zwane saying his relationship with the Guptas should not be an issue.
“I engage with them on the issues of the country, I engage with them on the issues of asking them to invest more in South Africa,” he said. “I will continue to deal with a number of CEOs and I will move to other countries to talk to them to attract investment.”
“I will not favour any businessperson – whether the Guptas – unduly so, but I will not hesitate to help in instances, especially like Optimum Coal, where a business was put in business rescue,” he told Bloomberg at the time.
In April, Oakbay Investments announced it had completed its acquisition of Optimum Coal Mine and six other target firms from Glencore for a total consideration of R2.15bn.
“The transaction demonstrates Oakbay’s firm commitment to South Africa,” said Oakbay chief executive Nazeem Howa in a statement.
However, since then banks have pulled their support of Oakbay over allegations that the Guptas are involved in state capture.
Zwane, who has been accused of being “captured” by the Guptas, was one of the ministers tasked to approach banks to engage with them on the matter.
Cas Coovadia, CEO of the Banking Association of South Africa, said recently “an array of regulations”, including the Fica compelled financial services institutions to conduct due diligence on clients, “particularly those of a substantive nature and those that are in the public domain”.
Oakbay’s auditor KPMG, the top four banks and Oakbay’s JSE sponsor Sasfin Capital all cut tieswith Oakbay Investments in March and CEO Nazeem Howa has been on a mission to get the banks to rethink their move.