Gumede’s BIG gifts
The mogul, who has been very generous towards the ANC, joins government on
Mpumalanga-born multimillionaire Robert Gumede is irking his counterparts in the province as the only entrepreneur who accompanies the Mpumalanga provincial government on investment-seeking expeditions internationally. Along with other businesspeople in the province who feel alienated, opposition political parties have expressed concern with the government’s apparent display of favouritism towards the information and communication technology entrepreneur, who has a very friendly relationship with Premier David Mabuza.
Gumede met up with Mabuza and his entourage on a trip to Angola last month. The premier visited the capital city, Luanda, as well as the Cuando Cubango province, and signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in agriculture, forestry, tourism, nature conservation, trade and investment.
When announcing Mabuza’s trip, the government said the premier would be accompanied by directorgeneral Thulani Mdakane, Mbombela mayor Sibusiso Mathonsi, Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency chief executive Xola Sithole, and Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency chief executive Abe Sibiya.
Gumede said he was part of the delegation to Angola when he donated 10 Ford Ranger double-cab bakkies, four buses and 20 iPads to Mpumalanga’s ANC structures last week.
He also donated R6.5 million to the ANC mother body – including its youth and women’s leagues, the SA Communist Party, labour federation Cosatu and the SA National Civic Organisation – and promised to build a 6km tarred road in Lekazi township, to be completed before the local government elections.
Waxing lyrical about his close friendship with Mabuza, and the premier’s recuperation from a twomonth health scare, Gumede said: “When we were in Angola with the premier a few weeks ago, he was the first on the dance floor and the last [to sit down].”
Gumede threatened legal action against City Press (see below) when he was asked for comment on the nature of the relations and privileges extended to him by the provincial government.
Despite Gumede’s public discussion about the time he spent with Mabuza’s delegation in Angola, the premier’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, insisted that Gumede went to Angola “on his own” and for his personal business-related matters.
“Gumede is a well known and successful PanAfrican businessman. He has businesses in many parts of the world, including Angola. With regard to the recent outbound mission to Angola … Gumede was not invited. He, however, met the delegation there [while] on his own visit,” said Mncwango.
It seems, though, that Gumede has a knack of being in the right place at the right time when Mabuza is abroad on investment trips.
In May last year, Gumede accompanied Mabuza on Gumede’s elections gift to ANC in Mpumalanga
an investment-seeking trip to Italy, where the premier met business delegations in Rome and signed a cooperation agreement with the governor of Puglia, Nichi Vendola, on agriculture, healthcare and human capital training.
The premier also signed an agreement with Servizi Assicurativi del Commercio Estero (Sace), an Italian company that finances the country’s businesses to invest abroad.
Mabuza said at that time that Sace had agreed to invest €100 million (R1.7 billion) in infrastructure projects that would include the revamping of five hospitals – Mapulaneng (in Acornhoek), Middelburg, Bethal, Mmametlake (Hammanskraal) and Ermelo – and the construction of schools in Bushbuckridge.
“With regard to the Italy trip, he (Gumede) personally facilitated some of the meetings with potential private sector investors so that the premier could convince them to consider investing in South Africa, particularly in the Mpumalanga province,” Mncwango explained.
“It is not a secret that Mr Gumede is the premier’s personal friend, but it must also be noted that [he] travels on his own account and has business relationships in the countries in which the premier has travelled,” he added.
Business support organisation Nafcoc’s Mpumalanga president, Sydney Kunene, expressed his wish to be part of the investment trips.
“As a predominantly black business organisation in Mpumalanga, we would like to work closely with the premier, but we have never been invited on any of the trips,” said Kunene.
DA provincial leader James Masango said the exclusion of businesspeople was the reason Mpumalanga struggled to get foreign direct investment.
“The premier should not only take people aligned to the ANC but all those who can help grow the economy,” he said.
Economic Freedom Fighters Mpumalanga leader Collen Sedibe said the party would lodge a complaint about the matter with the Public Protector.
“Why do they take one person? It is a fact that Mabuza and Gumede are friends, and this needs to be investigated,” he said.