In Parliament

Tina and Iqbal: Something's cooking

7 November 2014

Iqbal Survé has surprised the world by resigning as executive chairman of Sekunjalo. After announcing an increase in operating profit from R67 million to R99 million, he announced that he had been at Sekunjalo for 14 years and it was now "time to hand over the baton”. He will remain as chair of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings.

What does this have to do with Parliament? It appears on the surface very little, other than that, as executive chairman of Independent News & Media – publishers of the Argus, Cape Times, Diamond Fields Advertiser, the Mercury, the Daily News, Sunday Tribune and the Star - he has a field of representatives in the parliamentary press gallery.

However, Survé’s very close relationship with government has already been jolly good for business. Somehow he has purchased Independent with the help of the Public Investment Corporation (which through the Government Employees’ Pension Fund bought 25 percent of the newspaper group) and his links with the Chinese through the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) business council (he was appointed a council board member in March 2013) has seen a chunk of investment in Indy from China International Television Corporation (CITC) and the China-Africa Development Fund (which invested a total of R400 million to acquire 20 percent of Independent News and Media SA in December 2013). The CITC is a large scale state-owned corporation which is the sole wholly-owned subsidiary of China Central Television (which is the predominant state television broadcaster in mainland China, with 45 channels serving one billion users). The  PIC also apparently provided another huge chunk of cash on loan to Sekunjalo to help fund the takeover of Independent, but details of this are murky.

So why is he bailing out? Probably because he has bigger fish to fry with government. It is no accident that Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Survé’s old friend, is now energy minister. There is a multi-billion-rand nuclear deal in the offing. One only needs to recollect the fishing fleet deal - where Sekunjalo was declared preferred bidder for the R800 million a year contract to manage and maintain the fishing patrol and research fleet of the fisheries department when Joemat-Pettersson was the irresponsible minister, to realise how brazen it is.  (That deal of course turned belly-up when the previous contractor, Smit Amandla Marine (SAM) had the gutspah to reveal some of the bizarrely irrational (read corrupt) tender adjudication processes that had gone down, such as Sekunjalo being marked up massively where it should have been disqualified, and SAM being marked down comprehensively for no discernible reason by a certain irregularly appointed official. (The tender was scrapped, but too late to save the department from ruin.) What could conceivably have qualified Terrible Tina for promotion to the critical energy portfolio after such a disaster, other than her experience in dubious dealing? The nuclear programme is unmatched in its potential for backhander and other lucrative pickings. The recent deal with the Russians’ state owned nuclear company, Rosatom, is shrouded in mystery. First the deal signed in September by Joemat-Pettersson (while our honourable President Jacob Zuma was having tea with President Vladimir Putin), was thought to be a operational agreement in terms of which they would supply and install up to eight nuclear power stations. But now it is something less. But all the mystery suggests somebody's up to something ...

One person close to Sekunjalo, who of course does not wish to be named, says it is all quite simple. Last year, Survé said at his last general meeting of Sekunjalo that Independent wasnt acquired by the listed Sekunjalo arm because it was too big for its balance sheet. This implied that his unlisted business was way bigger – and private. He also happens to own about 15 percent of Siemens South Africa, a leading manufacturer of nuclear reactor components and Rosatom's latest partner in the nuclear business.

Siemens also has closed links with the French nuclear company, Areva – and South Africa has also signed a deal with France to cooperate on nuclear matters. One just has to put two-and-two together.

Energy minister Tina Pettersson and Iqbal Survé, who hosted a big ANC donor dinner in Cape Town last year ahead of this year's May election and never loses an opportunity to declare his loyalty to the ruling party, together have bigger fish - so to speak - to fry: they are cooking up something in the kitchen that is best not accounted for in the balance sheet of a public company.

Those that come too close might just get nuked.

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