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.

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