Minister’s Gupta jaunt to Zurich broke security rules
Former mineral resources & energy minister Mosebenzi Zwane’s unregistered 2015 trip to Switzerland to meet the Guptas and Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg could have put his security and that of SA at risk, as there is no record at the embassy in Zurich of his visit.
Last month, Zwane told the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture that he had gone to Zurich in December 2015 at Glasenberg’s invitation to negotiate how to keep the Optimum coal mine in operation and to save about 3,000 jobs. The jobs were on the line as the company had put the mine into business rescue.
However, the South African embassy in Switzerland and the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) have no record of Zwane being in the country or any report pertaining to such a meeting, according to Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela.
“Our mission in Zurich has no record of … Zwane using the mission to assist with his landing and/or departure from Zurich Airport. Also, there are no records of a meetand-greet being undertaken by any mission official/s. Mr Zwane did not utilise mission/Dirco resources for the said visit to Zurich,” said Monyela.
A recent communique between Dirco and the embassy, which the Sunday Times has seen, confirms this.
“There were a number of Minister’s booked in Zurich VIP by the Mission during 2015, there is however no record for a booking for Minister Zwane,” reads the communique. “The Mission accountant also went through her files and there is again no record of Minister Zwane using the Mission to assist with his landing and/or departure at/or from Zurich Airport nor are there any records of a meet and greet being undertaken by Mission officials.”
This is despite Zwane’s office on November 27 2015 having asked Dirco to facilitate his smooth travel with the embassy in Zurich as per government protocol as he was going on a working visit from November 30 to December 2 2015.
“Minister Zwane will be accompanied by Mr Joel Raphela, DDG: Mineral Regulation. They will stay at the Dolder Grand and the meetings will also be in the Zurich area. The Department will co-ordinate all logistical arrangements (hotel, flight and ground transportation) for the visit … We request the support of the Mission to facilitate the smooth transfer of the Minister and delegation while in Switzerland,” said his office at the time.
David Monyae, co-director of the University of Johannesburg’s Confucius Institute, said there were a number of anomalies and violations of government protocols regarding Zwane’s trip.
“The main aim of doing a proper pre-visit, during visit and when the minister leaves is to protect the minister, to prevent exposure in terms of the country so that you have a pre-approval of people you are going to meet … The greatest fear is either the minister is hijacked or in an accident or meets dubious people unaware, so that in the end it exposes the minister personally or it embarrasses the country,” said Monyae.
Zwane was present at the meeting with Gupta associate Salim Essa where he is accused of strong-arming Glencore to sell Optimum to the Guptas, who had already made a bid to buy the mine. He denied allegations that he had gone to the meeting to do the Guptas’ bidding.
In 2017, the Sunday Times revealed that Zwane, just three months after his appointment, stood up embassy officials on arrival in Zurich and when he left Zurich for Dubai in a Gupta-owned plane on December 2.
He told the commission he had asked for a lift from the Guptas to seek medical attention in India after the Zurich meeting. The GuptaLeaks e-mails revealed in the Sunday Times show that:
● The Guptas were sent Zwane’s CV a month before he was appointed minister of mineral resources;
● The Guptas had staff coach Zwane on how to handle media conferences, including questions about his relationship with the Guptas;
● He flew on a Gupta jet to Dubai and they picked up the tab for his accommodation; and
● The Guptas had hand-picked Zwane as mineral resources minister a month before then-president Jacob Zuma appointed him to his cabinet in September 2015.
On July 31 2015, France Oupa Mokoena, from Koena Consulting and Property Developers, e-mailed Tony Gupta to say: “Please find attached the CV of Mr Mosebenzi Zwane for your attention.”
E-mails from the Oberoi Hotel to the Guptas confirm that Zwane’s stay at the fivestar hotel in Dubai was paid for by Guptaowned Sahara.
Zwane was chauffeured around in a BMW 7 Series. Ashu Chawla, a Gupta lieutenant, advised hotel reservations to charge the cost of the chauffeur services to a certain Mr Singh.
There were a number of Minister’s booked in Zurich VIP by the Mission during 2015, there is however no record for a booking for Minister Zwane
Reads the communique