Is the senior bureaucrat at public enterprises a Gupta spy?
THE important players in state capture are not just political masters and Duduzane Zuma — they might include senior civil servants, too.
Someone with the e-mail address “Business Man” leaked crucial information to the Gupta family about deals with state-owned enterprises. But who is he?
In December 2015, Mogokare Richard Seleke — a civil servant of 20 years’ standing — was appointed director-general in the Department of Public Enterprises.
Six months before that, Business Man had e-mailed President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane.
The e-mail reads: “Evening sir please find attached my C.V and supporting documents.”
The attached CV is Seleke’s. The e-mail ends with “Regards, Richard”. But Seleke denied yesterday that he was Business Man.
“That is not my e-mail address. Lots of people have my CV and I cannot be held accountable for things which I have no control over,” Seleke said.
He challenged the Sunday Times to find fault with the way he was appointed. “I was moved from the position of DG at economic affairs to this one without a cent raise.”
Seleke was appointed to head the Free State department of economic development, tourism and environmental affairs in October 2013, when Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane — who has faced repeated allegations over his dealings with the Guptas — was MEC. He was appointed to the Transnet board in December 2014.
Other e-mails from Business Man to the Guptas in 2015 reveal information on the controversial Denel Asia merger. In one, Business Man ‘REGARDS, RICHARD’: Mogokare Richard Seleke says two Denel officials suggested Dubai as a good location for Denel Asia offices.
Another e-mail forwards a “confidential” letter from the Department of Public Enterprises’ acting deputy director-general of manufacturing enterprises, Vuyo Tlale, to Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown. It contains pre-notification of the proposed formation of Denel Asia.
An e-mail to Business Man includes a memorandum from Eskom’s lawyers about the utility’s rights relating to Optimum Coal’s business-rescue proceedings.
This legal opinion is sent from mat[email protected]hoo.com just days after it was sent to Eskom on October 30 2015, with the note “Eskom legal counsel opinion sir”.
Three minutes later, matshela2010 sends a letter from mining house Just Coal to Eskom’s primary energy division coal-supply manager, Martin Makoni. Seven days later, both emails are forwarded to Ashu Chawla, CEO of Gupta-owned Sahara.
The Just Coal letter disputes Eskom’s unilateral and immediate cancellation of a supply contract to three power stations. “Your decision as it stands will have a costly negative financial impact on our business. We will continue to produce and make the contractual coal available for delivery,” says Just Coal chairman Joe Singh.
Matshela Koko was then the Eskom executive responsible for securing coal for power stations, and the e-mails coincided with Gupta negotiations to buy Optimum Coal from Glencore, which supplied the Arnot power station.
A Gupta company, Tegeta, was in the process of securing contracts to supply the Matla and Hendrina power stations.
In further e-mail correspondence, Chawla confirms Koko’s stay at the Oberoi hotel in Dubai in January last year. He writes: “Sahara will pay the entire bill, please do not ask any credit card guarantee from the guest at the time of check-in.”
Eskom declined to comment. “It is premature to respond in any specific way to the issues raised as these fall within the purview of the State of Capture report’s remedial action,” said spokesman Khulani Qoma.
Koko ignored calls, e-mails and SMSes over three days as well as a message sent to his Twitter account.
Yesterday he replied: “I will not respond in any specific way.”
In an interview at Eskom’s offices in January, he denied illegal dealings with the Guptas.
Colin Cruywagen, spokesperson for Department of Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, said the minister had repeatedly called for further investigation into allegations raised in the State of Capture report to spare state-owned companies further reputational damage. A GUPTA associate on the board of Transnet shared confidential board committee documents with the family before a board meeting that escalated costs for a locomotives tender set to net them R5.3-billion in fees.
Iqbal Sharma, former business partner to Gupta associate Salim Essa, sent the agenda of Transnet’s board acquisitions and disposals committee meeting a week before the meeting to an e-mail address from where it was forwarded it to Tony Gupta.
The May 2014 meeting was key for the family: it took a resolution to recommend that Transnet’s board escalate the costs of the 1 064 locomotives tender — from which Essa stood to make billions in professional fees from bidders — from R39-billion to R52-billion.
Leaked documents seen by the Sunday Times in e-mails from the family’s businesses and associates show how Sharma, who was chairman of the committee at the time, sent the agenda to an unknown person using the address [email protected] gmail.com, who then forwarded it to Gupta.
E-mails reveal how Essa signed a “business-development services agreement” with one of the successful bidders, China South Rail, which meant his company Tequesta stood to receive R3.8-billion in fees from the CSR’s R18.1-billion portion of the contract. This was repeated in two other contracts awarded to CSR by Transnet, where Tequesta would earn a further R1.5-billion in fees.
This week Transnet did not respond to questions around the deals, the leaked agenda and reasons for the escalation.
A former Transnet board member said: “There were some R5-billion in hedging costs and something else . . . I cannot remember well.”
Transnet has emerged as a key institution from which the family and associates, using board and executive appointments, inserted themselves into numerous tenders, and extracted professional fees. It has also been exposed for making millions in payments to Gupta-linked company Trillian for work allegedly not done.
Sharma said the escalation was recommended by the executives dealing with the process and had been presented by then chief financial officer Anoj Singh — another Guptalinked executive. “They could best answer the reason for increase as I do not have the support documents with me,” he said. “The recommendation would have been to take it to the full board where all these matters are approved . . . Even as a chair of the [board committee], I and other members had no direct sight of the procurement process and evaluation.”
Declining to comment on the forwarded mail, Sharma said: “A secure process for the high-value tender was created and followed. Evaluators included the group chief executive officer, CFO, the chief executive of Transnet Freight, the chief procurement officer and others.”
Reports from the mails thus far have lifted the veil on the Guptas’ wide network of influence over the state, from the cabinet to parastatals.
Singh, now chief financial officer at Eskom, was exposed for being on four Gupta-sponsored trips to Dubai during the period Transnet awarded a R1.8-billion contract to Neotel. Guptalinked company Homix earned R36-million from this transaction.
On Friday Singh referred all questions to Transnet, saying 2014 was too long ago for him to remember details.
The Guptas’ attorney, Gert van der Merwe, said he had advised his clients not to respond to media inquiries until the authenticity of the emails had been established. “I’m happy to support a judicial inquiry [into allegations of state capture]. We will participate and co-operate fully and that will give me the opportunity to rely on authentic documents.”
I was moved to [the position of public enterprises DG] without a cent raise There were some R5-billion in hedging costs and something else . . . I can’t remember