All that glisters...

All that glisters...

The 2015 Annual Report for Gold Fields provides further insight into costs in the on-going scam (see Nose192) based at South Deep, the company’s “developing” gold mine west of Johannesburg. In the latest year of sham, the Gold Fields board and its top executives were remunerated to the tune of R187 million for 2015. This takes the total for the con-artist scions to R919 million over the past five years, and to more than R1 billion since Nick Holland took the CEO seat in May 2008. For the immense pain of fanning one of the tallest stories in gold mining history, Holland has managed to pocket close to R200 million since taking occupation of that office.

Something nasty in the coalshed

Something nasty in the coalshed

Toxic fumes rise from the Eskom-Gupta contretemps.

The recent uproar around the Gupta coal scandal has completely overlooked two crucial points – what the infamous “prepayment” was actually for, and why Eskom has, anyway, any kind of relationship at all with a company owing it huge fines. The prepayment, apparently made this April, of R587 million in cash by Eskom to Tegeta Exploration and Resources, the Guptas front for their coal ambitions, was allegedly made to enable Optimum Coal to continue producing coal. But there’s a missing piece of story here, indicating a rather peculiar hidden agenda.

In 2011 and 2012, Swiss-based Glencore paid $783 million (more than R10 billion at current exchange rates) to buy a controlling stake in Optimum, which in 2010 claimed to be the fourth largest coal producer in the country. Glencore would buy further parcels of shares, spending close to R15 billion in all. Its “broad-based BEE” partner was a single person, one Cyril Ramaphosa. However, by early August 2015, Glencore – which sports one of the biggest balance sheets in global mining and commodity-trading – had placed Optimum in business rescue. As reported in Nose 197, it later emerged that Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane had attended meetings last December with Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg, apparently at the behest of the Guptas.

This is where our tale twists.

Investec's Panamania

Investec's Panamania

Shady offshore ventures were veiled in bland corporate spin. 

If a man is sufficiently unimaginative to produce evidence in support of a lie, he might just as well speak the truth at once”. – Oscar Wilde

So why then did Investec bother (finally) to issue a haughty statement early in June, trashing the notion that it is active in offshore tax havens? Investec had, once upon a time, the statement suggested, briefly entered the offshore banking world by accident (in 1998 it bought a UK bank which made it something of a speciality), but – as soon as possible (in 2013) – had got shot of all that shady stuff. You have to do some arithmetic to work out that this “briefly” lasted 15 years – and that’s on the unlikely assumption that  Investec hadn’t been doing its own offshore business before that.

Come to think of it, why would Investec have bought a bank called Guinness Flight Trust Services if it didn’t want to get into the offshore “Trust” business.

 A great deal has happened since the year 2000.

Eureka! (well ... almost)

Eureka! (well ... almost)

How politicians deprived SA of major technological breakthrough.

In 1994 our new government closed down the battery research unit at the CSIR in Pretoria. It was perhaps the worst decision on technical matters by any government since the central planners of the old Soviet Union decided there was no future in transistors and cranked up the production of vacuum tube radio valves. The unit, under the leadership of Dr Michael Thackeray, had just achieved a major breakthrough in the lithium ion batteries which now power cell phones, tablets, laptops and electric cars. Our government couldn’t see it (see Nose187).

Professor John Goodenough of Texas is generally credited with the invention of lithium batteries, but it was Thackeray, a UCT-educated chemist, who invented the use of spinel oxides that turned the lithium-ion battery into the best battery we have today. Thackeray is now at Argonne National Research Laboratory in Chicago.

Further improvements in lithium-ion technology will soon find their way into the biggest lithium-ion battery factory in the world.

Love and loss

Love and loss

Karina was his fifth bride – and the love of André Brink’s life. Now she celebrates his memory. 

“He knew all of me but never preyed on my weaknesses; he only ever believed in the best of me and thus made me thrive in my strengths.”

Karina Szczurek, widow of acclaimed South African author and academic André Brink who died last year, is explaining what she meant when she dedicated her first novel, Invisible Others, published in 2014, “to André who saved me from myself”.

Quietly spoken, yet engaging, the Polish-born Szczurek, who has made an impact as a writer and literary critic in South Africa, elaborates: “By believing in my writing and encouraging it every day, André made me finally realise that I was a writer and that it was a viable way of being in the world for me. Until I met him I mostly wrote for the proverbial drawer. Also, because he trusted me with his own writing, we became each other’s first readers. When somebody of André’s calibre believes in you, you can’t help but grow.”

Obituary: Bad Medicine. Speaking ill

Obituary: Bad Medicine. Speaking ill

Dr Wynne Lieberthal, in recent years a much-loved Sabie GP, died at his home in that town of a heart attack, on 5 June. He was 61. Dr Lieberthal featured in a 2004 Noseweek story that exposed his drug addiction, his physically debilitated patients, and a set of highly-questionable dread-disease insurance claims for his friends and family. (His twin brother Hugh collaborated in the dread-disease fraud.)

Lieberthal was suspended from practising medicine in 1991, but managed to get reinstated soon after coming out of rehab. After qualifying as an orthopaedic surgeon, he was again struck off the roll, in July 2004, when the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) found him guilty on seven charges of unprofessional conduct relating to botched spine operations (Nose57). One of the botched procedures resulted in a teenage girl being rendered paraplegic, after he accidentally severed her spinal cord.

Opinion: Brexit

Opinion: Brexit

Through the looking glass

There is no question about it: the UK’s response to the Brexit vote amounts to the most confusing event in British history. To get to the bottom of the mess, consider for instance, that not once, but twice, Charles de Gaulle prevented the UK from joining the forerunner to the EU. In his time as President of France, De Gaulle was concerned by “a number of aspects of Britain’s economy, from working practices to agriculture”. He fretted that these had made Britain “incompatible” with Europe. He was convinced of a “deep-seated hostility” to any pan-European project. After De Gaulle, the UK joined the EEC in 1973, an event that easily survived a 1975 referendum. Even so, there have all along been individuals, advocacy and other groupings which have campaigned for an exit. Finally, on 23 June, in the Brexit referendum, 52% of votes cast were for exit. Only 72% of the electorate had gone to the poll.

The outcome triggered shockwaves across the world, not least in currency markets. British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned.

White Zulu: Ethnicity

White Zulu: Ethnicity

To BEE or not to BEE

The protest around the ANC’s candidate mayor for Tshwane recalls that Idols audition snippet which went viral in the township a few years back. In it Gareth Cliff asks a contestant what he does for a living.

“I sell things” he answers.

“Like what?” asks Gareth.

“Cigarettes, airtime, sweets!”

“Oh, so you are vendor?”

“No!” is the indignant answer.

“So what are you?”

“I’m a Zulu!”

One of the mistakes we make in our country is to believe our population is completely Westernising. We see a black person in a BMW, wearing a suit and the accoutrements of Western culture, and we feel they are a ‘Coconut’, brown on the outside but white inside. Big mistake.

Valuation scandal

Valuation scandal

Maverick activist exposes ludicrously low property rates for the super-rich.  A property rates crusader has had his mission for tax justice cut short – by the Oppenheimers. Dr Robert McLaren had been running a ...
 
All that glisters...

All that glisters...

The 2015 Annual Report for Gold Fields provides further insight into costs in the on-going scam (see Nose192) based at South Deep, the company’s “developing” gold mine west of Johannesburg. In the latest ...

Something nasty in the coalshed

Something nasty in the coalshed

Toxic fumes rise from the Eskom-Gupta contretemps. The recent uproar around the Gupta coal scandal has completely overlooked two crucial points – what the infamous “prepayment” was actually for, and why Eskom has, anyway, ...

Investec's Panamania

Investec's Panamania

Shady offshore ventures were veiled in bland corporate spin.  “If a man is sufficiently unimaginative to produce evidence in support of a lie, he might just as well speak the truth at once”. – Oscar ...

Eureka! (well ... almost)

Eureka! (well ... almost)

How politicians deprived SA of major technological breakthrough. In 1994 our new government closed down the battery research unit at the CSIR in Pretoria. It was perhaps the worst decision on technical matters ...

Love and loss

Love and loss

Karina was his fifth bride – and the love of André Brink’s life. Now she celebrates his memory.  “He knew all of me but never preyed on my weaknesses; he only ever believed in ...

Obituary: Bad Medicine. Speaking ill

Obituary: Bad Medicine. Speaking ill

Dr Wynne Lieberthal, in recent years a much-loved Sabie GP, died at his home in that town of a heart attack, on 5 June. He was 61. Dr Lieberthal featured in a 2004 ...

Opinion: Brexit

Opinion: Brexit

Through the looking glass There is no question about it: the UK’s response to the Brexit vote amounts to the most confusing event in British history. To get to the bottom of the mess, ...

White Zulu: Ethnicity

White Zulu: Ethnicity

To BEE or not to BEE The protest around the ANC’s candidate mayor for Tshwane recalls that Idols audition snippet which went viral in the township a few years back. In it Gareth Cliff ...