Gumede’s BIG gifts

The mogul, who has been very gen­er­ous to­wards the ANC, joins govern­ment on

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

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

Do­nated:

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.

Robert Gumede

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