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Icarus has fallen – Politics and the Tragedy of Brian Molefe

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Icarus has fallen – Politics and the Tragedy of Brian Molefe

“It is a melancholy truth; that even great men have poor relations…” (C Dickens, 1812 – 1870)

A contribution by Khaya Sithole (Wits Lecturer)

Yesterday I witnessed the heart-breaking sight of the CEO of Eskom Brian Molefe breaking down in tears. At that stage, I had finally finished all 444 pages of the State of Capture report and had a couple of observations. Firstly, we need to talk about the name of the Gupta security guard. We really need to talk about this name. His name is Mjikijeli Kheswa and it essentially means ‘the thrower’. And in a society where the president is rapidly developing a reputation of throwing people under the bus – this is a delightful and ironic twist.

Secondly and rather unfortunately, the report is quite poorly written. By the time I landed on page 59, I had identified far too many errors that make me feel quite uncomfortable. After page 59, I stopped applying my metaphorical red pen – it was out of ink. Naturally one has to concede that the Public Protector does not actually type out the report herself but – just like Shaun Abrahams has the final say on prosecutions – Thuli had the final say on the report and its substandard editorial quality is rather disappointing. Substantively the report itself is not actually 444 pages but much shorter than that. There are bizarre repetitions of issues already ventilated that suddenly pop up again for no discernible reason. This is difficult to understand.

Another odd thing about the report is that it includes identity numbers of some affected persons. I think this is wrong. The Public Protector is fully aware that the CIPC allows anyone who is in possession of an ID number and a surname of someone else to scrutinise the directorships of that other individual. I do not understand why this was regarded as necessary. As a consequence of this, I have been able to ascertain that the following affected individuals

– Anthony Wood, Litha Nyhonyha and Mr Pillay are directors in multiple companies. Wood is a current and past director in 62 different companies; Litha Nyhonyha is a current and past director of 113 different companies and Pillay is on 58 companies. I am not convinced that this was necessary at all.

As a disclaimer, I first read the report in Melrose Arch the day it was released – and 2 of the affected individuals happened to be in the restaurant at the same time – plus the guy who currently runs the SABC. Furthermore, one of the mentioned individuals is a personal friend who actually sold me my first car 9 years ago. And another entity mentioned in the report – RBCT – funded my undergraduate studies at Howard College. So, there you go – all conflicts declared.

And then there is the report itself. The essence of it all is the question of whether the Republic as we know it has been captured by individuals who are advancing private interests using public resources. The scope of the investigation was limited to focus on one family and its influence on the state. The question of whether the scope should extend beyond this is worth considering. But nevertheless, we are stuck with this report so we need to talk about it – for now.

The report threatened to cover issues relating to multiple companies, but somehow we end up with a detailed focus on the Eskom contracts. Key to the problem is the history of the Optimum Coal Mine and how it ended up in the control of the Guptas. The short version of the story is as follows. Back in 1993, Eskom signed a contract with Optimum for the supply of coal from 1993 to 2018. The basis of this contract is the coal supply agreement (CSA) which has 2 interesting aspects. One refers to hardships clause which means that the parties can engage within the 25-year period and renegotiate aspects of the deal if necessary. The other aspect relates to the penalty provisions – which allows Eskom to penalise Optimum in the event that the coal delivered is not useful to Eskom. In this penalty clause, Optimum is obliged to keep delivering coal but only gets paid a nominal amount of R1 per tonne until Eskom recovers its losses. Sometime in the late 2000s, the Optimum Coal entity fell into the hands of Glencore – who presumably conducted proper diligence before they decided to acquire the mine. And then things started going wrong.

At some point in time Optimum started supplying substandard coal to Eskom. In some consignments, up to 45% of the coal was useless to Eskom and had to be rejected. This means that Eskom was stuck with useless coal and had to adjust its electricity generation schedule to cater for the fact that it didn’t have enough useful coal. The 1993 agreement allowed for Eskom to actually penalise Optimum when this happened – but Eskom decided not to implement the penalty clause. Instead, South Africa suffered through load shedding. The nature of the agreement signed in 1993 had escalations – as expected. Due to its location, Optimum was responsible for supplying coal to the Hendrina Power Station which is based in Mpumalanga and has a capacity of 2 000 megawatts. The consequence of receiving useless coal means that the power generation is compromised and load shedding results. Rather than penalise the company and drive it to bankruptcy, Eskom decided it was in their interests to keep the mine operational by ignoring the penalty clause – and the penalty fee kept rising.

Somewhere along the line, Optimum became aware that Eskom had a deal with Exxaro for the supply of coal which was economically much better than the deal that Optimum had. In the Exxaro contract, Eskom paid R1 132 per tonne. In the Optimum contract, Eskom paid only R150 per tonne. The Exxaro contract expired on 31 December 2015; the Optimum contract was due to only expire in December 2018. In light of this information, Optimum then activated the hardship clause which simply means they went to Eskom and said ‘we can no longer keep supplying coal at R150 per tonne; we want to charge you R530 per tonne, can we negotiate?’.

In this conversation, Optimum was asked to prove that their cost structure was indeed too high and they could only remain alive if Eskom paid them more. They struggled to prove this and kept insisting that they were losing R100 million per month from the Eskom contract. Eskom remained unconvinced.

Optimum came back with a revised offering saying they could suddenly survive if Eskom paid them R442 per tonne. Unfortunately, a certain Brian Molefe was now in the building. As part of his strategy to turn around the entity, poor old Brian engaged his mind in evaluating such contracts. And then – Wits University’s most successful graduate – Ivan Glasenberg who owns Glencore – indicated to Brian that if Eskom wasn’t willing to pay more than the current price then Optimum would stop supplying Eskom and load shedding would be a permanent problem. Brian then viewed this as a form of bullying and then decided to tell Glasenberg that he will activate the penalty clause on Optimum. At that stage, the money that Optimum owed Eskom in terms of the penalty clause was R2,15 billion. So we had a company that had a liability of R2,15 billion to Eskom threatening to cut coal supplies unless Eskom paid them R442 per tonne – even though the agreement said Eskom needed to pay R150 per tonne. This was a standoff of electric proportions.

The scary thing about this penalty clause is that it is actually part of a strategic move by Optimum. Power stations are very specific about the size and density of the coal they can burn. If a supplier brings the wrong coal it simply cannot be used without damaging the power station. So suddenly, Optimum started delivering coal that was wrong. Firstly, 20% of the delivery would be wrong. And then 30%. And then 40%. And this peaked at 45%. The problem here is that you cannot possibly know that the coal is unusable until it arrives at the power station. And when you need to generate 2 000 megawatts of power then you are in trouble. Eskom could have activated the penalty clause and refuse to pay Optimum – but this would have bankrupted Optimum immediately so Eskom didn’t levy the penalty – but kept calculating it. And this is how the penalty kept growing until it reached R2,15 billion.

Once Molefe refused to be bullied into paying this increased price and decided to activate the penalty clause, Optimum then put itself into business rescue. When it went to business rescue,

it owed R2,9 billion to Investec, Nedbank and RMB. These were the secured creditors that needed to be paid first before any change of ownership could take place.

A key feature of the Optimum structure is that Eskom needs to approve any transaction that results in a change in ownership of Optimum. The Optimum Coal Mine is one of 3 entities that make up Optimum Coal Holdings – the others are Optimum Coal Terminal (OCT) and the Koornfontein Mine. OCT is part of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) which is a consortium of coal suppliers. Optimum Coal (OCT) is a 7,5% member of RBCT which means that they can provide up to 7,5% of RBCT’s annual exports. The value of this right is $360 million per year – that is R4,85 billion per year.

Once Optimum was under business rescue, Pembani attempted to make an offer to buy the mine. The deal collapsed because Eskom said they would still demand payment of the R2,15 billion penalty from the new owner. Pembani was informed that Eskom would not approve a deal unless Pembani agreed to pay the penalty. So Pembani walked away.

A key part of the deal is the question of whether only Optimum Coal Mine was for sale or if all 3 companies were for sale. The 2 other entities were still profitable – only Optimum Coal Mine was making losses due to the Eskom contract. Ideally, if one could buy all 3 then you could use the profits from the other 2 to balance out the losses on the Eskom contract. After Pembani walked away, our favourite audit firm – KPMG – then informed Optimum and Glencore that a new buyer had emerged – and this buyer wanted all 3 entities. This buyer was Tegeta which is owned by Oakbay and the Guptas.

What was curious about the Tegeta/Oakbay conversation is that Eskom suddenly changed 2 things. Firstly, Eskom was no longer insisting on charging the R2,15 billion penalty to the new owner – this is different to what Pembani had been told. Secondly Eskom was now happy to approve the sale of all 3 entities – this is now what Pembani had been told. In other words, once Tegeta joined the conversation, Eskom deleted the 2 clauses that had made the deal impossible for Pembani. This was curious.

The banks also got involved in the conversation. By the time Nhlanhla Nene was fired on 9 December, the banks were owed R2,95 billion. In reality, the company now belonged to the banks and Eskom which was owed R2,15 billion. You would therefore need over R5 billion to buy the company – unless Eskom wrote off its R2,15 billion claim – which it surprisingly did by deferring it. Once Eskom had indicated that the R2,15 billion could be deferred it meant that all one needed to do was to pay off the banks and Optimum could be transferred. For all practical purposes, this deal made economic sense. Only 1 leg of it was odd – the Optimum Coal Terminal (OCT) leg. As part of its drive to reduce costs, Optimum had stopped supplying coal to the export market. This is odd because the coal is sold on the export market for $65 (R875) per tonne – which is much higher than the R150 Eskom was paying and still higher than the R530 Optimum wanted Eskom to pay under a revised contract. Once all these issues had been sorted and Eskom was willing to ignore the R2,15 billion penalty, Tegeta made an offer that was acceptable to all parties (the banks and Glencore). The final purchase price was R2,55 billion. Glencore would pay R400 million and Tegeta – don’t laugh – would pay R2,15 billion. But there’s more…

In any mining operation, there is a legal requirement to set up an ‘environmental/rehabilitation fund’ which will deal with fixing the environment once the minerals have been successfully stolen by capitalists. Such funds are supposed to benefit the communities in the affected area and established in terms of the National Environmental Management Act. Naturally, Optimum Coal and Koornfontein had created such funds. The Optimum Fund had R1,47 billion and the Koornfontein Fund had R280 million. The funds are ring-fenced for community activities only and cannot be used for any other purpose. If an entity uses the funds for any other purpose then the owners of the fund are guilty in terms of the Income Tax Act (section 37) and need to pay taxes up to 2 times the value of the Fund.

The Guptas got clever here. As part of the purchase agreement, the control of the rehabilitation funds would pass on to the new owner. Tegeta then classified this as ‘cash available to them’ which would be transferable once the sale had been finalised. (Just like your fixed deposit which you plan on withdrawing after a specific date). The Bank of Baroda then treated the cash in the funds as money available to Tegeta and counted it as Tegeta’s asset. After April, South Africa’s ‘ethical’ banks – Standard Bank and Nedbank, transferred the funds to the Bank of Baroda branch in Durban. Apparently at that stage the 2 banks had not located their conscience and didn’t question why the money was being moved.

So you’d think these illegal transfers would have set alarm bells everywhere. But the Guptas are much smarter than we think. The Guptas have a friend called Mosebenzi Zwane – who sounds like a hard worker. He is the rather energetic Minister of Mineral Resources. The official custodian of the mining rehabilitation funds is the Department of Mineral Resources. Such funds that are created for community benefit purposes are only allowed to make transfers after obtaining approval from the Minister of Mineral Resources – and that would be Mosebenzi Zwane. Once such a transfer happens; SARS is responsible for charging taxes on this fund – unless the Commissioner decides not to charge the tax. That would be Mr Tom Moyane.

In order to facilitate this hoax, the Bank of Baroda prepared a letter to indicate that Tegeta had money. That made it easier for the South African banks to believe they would get their money. But this was not enough to cover the purchase price.

Tegeta then went on a drive to raise the money which involved multiple entities including Trillian Capital, Oakbay, Regiments and Shiva Uranium. Unfortunately, after all this was done, Tegeta was still short of R600 million in order to finalise the transaction – yes, that sounds like the R600 million offered to Mr Jonas. The period of 11 to 13 April is the biggest problem for Brian Molefe. I am tempted to say that Brian Molefe reacted to the bullying antics of Glasenberg in a way that he thought was prudent. I am also tempted to think that by the time Brian arrived at Eskom with the promise of ending load shedding his most important discovery was that load shedding is the type of thing that had been manufactured by entities like Glencore through their immoral actions. Somehow Brian inherited this superhero complex where he needed to defeat Glasenberg at this game and also fix a national crisis. Whether his steps in executing such a mandate were appropriate is the philosophical dilemma that led us to this point. It is quite possible that Brian stepped into a vortex where the steps towards resolving this fiasco had been set in place long before he arrived. Unfortunately, he decided to assimilate with what he believed was the lesser evil and that is the realisation that brought him to tears today.

On the 11th of April, Tegeta realised that they were R600 million short. As a first step, they tried to find out if the banks would accept a deal without the R600 million. The banks said no. Then they asked Glencore for help. Glencore said no. Then Eskom stepped into the fray. On the night of the 11th of April, the Board Tender Committee of Eskom met and approved a R659 million ‘pre-payment’ at 9:00 pm. The pre-payment was apparently made to Tegeta in order to enable Optimum Coal to continue operating and revive its export contract. The problem here is that at that stage Tegeta did not own Optimum as the purchase had not been finalised. It is also odd that the Eskom Committee did not question why a payment for Optimum was going through Tegeta who had no legal relationship with Eskom at that stage. This is really Brian’s problem. Had the transfer gone straight to Optimum instead of Tegeta, Brian’s explanation would make sense. But this did not happen. Another reason advanced by Eskom is that the pre-payment was necessary in order to fix prices that might increase – this is simple nonsense.

Eskom employs an entire treasury division whose core expertise is hedging. A contract of 3-months that requires them to pay R659 million simply does not exist.

On the 13th of April, Eskom paid Tegeta and suddenly, Tegeta had enough money to buy Optimum and the deal was closed. Earlier yesterday, Brian was clear that the pre-payment has been settled already – but that is not the point. Brian’s key weakness is that he cannot explain why the payment went to Tegeta if the intention was to assist Optimum. It also doesn’t help that the administrators of Optimum found out from Carte Blanche that Eskom approved a payment of R659 million on 11 April – and they never saw a single cent. This is the fundamental problem with Brian’s version of events.

It also does not help Brian’s argument that the Guptas found a way to say that the deal would only be feasible if all 3 entities were sold – and then betrayed Brian. Remember that the R659 million pre-payment was apparently meant to assist in the revival of the coal exports through RBCT? Well it turns out the Guptas then decided they were not interested in exports after all – and sold their RBCT right. The selling price – $250 million (R3.6 billion) which means that after all these transactions, the Guptas have a profit of R1,5 billion already. So, you can imagine being a Brian Molefe being parachuted right into the heart of this fiasco and having to pick one devil over another… What would you have done?

Brian remains one of the most arrogant human beings I have ever encountered – and there is nothing wrong with that. He also gets paid ridiculously well for the job he does – so he can definitely defend himself. My point of convergence with Brian is that I see him as an interesting exhibit of the Icarus complex. Such a complex exists when an individual’s spiritual ambition exceeds their given limits – leading to a backlash.

In Brian’s view, his quest to end load shedding at all costs was the driving ambition. Unfortunately, it was limited by the reality of the economic structure that Eskom was stuck with. Brian’s main error was in seeking to bypass such a problem by engaging the Gupta contract – and he will regret this forever. The thing about the Icarus complex is that you are allowed to fly high and soar as close to the sun as you can. And those who need you will cheer you on. But as soon as you get close to the sun and start burning, your support base evaporates and you take the fall on your own. South Africans were very happy that Brian ended load shedding. It is the true mechanics of how he did it that we are now uncomfortable with – and we are letting him burn. I understand this phenomenon very well – ask anyone who has ever heard of the FNB Building in Wits University. They will let you fly and soar as high as you can – for as long as it makes them look good. And then when they have to acknowledge the sacrifices you need to make in order to get there and make them look good – they let you burn, just like Icarus. This is life.

My issue with this entire exercise is just how clumsy the Guptas have been in facilitating all of this. You would think that the involvement of Glasenberg and Glencore would have been enough for them to understand how states are supposed to be captured, right? Dololo strategy!

In corporate life, there is nothing more delightful than any transaction that screws over a certain Ivan Glasenberg. Trust me – there isn’t.

The roots of the story date back to 1974 – when a certain Marc Rich came into international prominence. Marc Rich is the godfather of the international commodities business – and actually mastered state capture long before the Guptas landed in South Africa. His modus operandi included ignoring all sorts of international sanctions and selling oil to the apartheid government – at remarkably inflated prices. The good thing for him is that he had the National Party in his pocket – just like the Guptas have parts of this current administration. Being an orthodox Jew, Marc Rich captured a young South African Wits graduate – Ivan Glasenberg, and added him to his empire in 1983. At that stage, the National Party was in trouble with the rest of the world – so Marc Rich found a way to help them out. His main task was to embezzle oil from obscure places like that discredited regime of Iran and ship it to South Africa. In order to achieve this, a company called Minoil was set up as a front. Its role was to bypass all forms of sanctions and transparency in exchange for a profit.

In exile, Frene Ginwala was in charge of the ANC’s energy team which was responsible for promoting an international embargo on oil exports to South Africa. Her role was to convince international oil producers to stop supplying oil to South Africa. A key part of hitting the apartheid government using oil was the 1980 attack on Sasol – which was masterminded by Joe Slovo and a man called Jacob Zuma. In September 1983, the International Herald Tribune (New York Times) carried an article which first exposed the fact that Marc Rich was secretly selling oil to the apartheid government. On 1 October 1983, Frene Ginwala wrote a note to the ANC operatives exposing that Marc Rich and Minoil were infact in breach of the international oil embargo. Nothing appears to have been done about this revelation.

Having positioned himself as the only man who could provide oil to South Africa, Marc Rich then went deep. Over a 10-year period, he delivered oil worth $2 billion – and charged $24 billion – which was paid by the government. This $22 billion that was stolen from the South African government has never been recovered – even though Marc Rich’s companies still exist and operate in South Africa. Surprisingly, Glasenberg – who was a South African citizen working for Marc Rich claimed that he was unaware that there was an international oil embargo on South Africa and therefore saw nothing wrong with selling oil to the apartheid government. One of the individuals who dedicated herself to exposing the real crimes of Marc Rich and his company was Dulcie September who was an ANC operative based in Paris. As soon as her research got her close to the truth – she was assassinated in Paris in March 1988. Her killers have never been found.

By the time apartheid reached its overdue demise, Marc Rich was wanted for his crimes in the USA and had exiled himself to Switzerland. The FBI had a price tag of $750 000 on his head. He then decided to rebrand himself and split his company into Trafigura and Glencore in 1993 – the year Eskom signed the Optimum Coal contract. In that split, Marc Rich kept Trafigura and Ivan Glasenberg headed Glencore. In 1994, things took a twist when Marc Rich was kicked out of Trafigura after squandering a zinc deal. Glencore took over Trafigura and then operated as an obscure private entity run by Glasenberg and his Rich boys (they really actually call themselves that).

In 2005, Glencore embarked on a mission of consolidating the coal supply chain in South Africa through a series of mergers. This included the acquisition of Optimum in 2008. 25 coal mergers were completed from 2005 to 2012 – 14 of them were classified as large mergers. Of the 14, Glencore was the party in 10 of them with Xstrata featuring in the rest. In 2011/12, Glencore initiated a merger with Xstrata which was run by Mick Davis, another South African.

That 2008 transaction with Optimum had left Glasenberg in control of 31% of South Africa’s coal exports. However, Glasenberg had much larger ambitions for capturing the coal supply of South Africa. The Xstrata merger itself would be the last step in a journey that started in 2005 and was designed to give Glencore absolute control of the South African coal market. Eskom was the only witness that objected to the merger. In its submissions to the Competition Commission, Eskom indicated that the Glencore strategy would destroy South Africa’s ability to generate electricity. And Eskom had real reasons for fighting this deal.

From the period of 2000 to 2012, something disturbing had happened in the South African coal market. The coal produced in South Africa is graded according to density. So we produce export grade coal and the local coal that Eskom uses. Historically, most of the exported coal went to European markets which require low-density coal and pay a premium (it is priced in dollars). The Asian markets on the other hand, use coal that is similar to the Eskom coal (local variety). Up until 2007, Europe was our chief export market (80%), Asia was at 15% and the rest of the world was the remainder. Because the main export market (Europe) needed coal that Eskom didn’t use anyway it meant that we had no problems finding coal for our power stations. Around 2007 however, the exports to Asia suddenly spiked and the exports to Europe fell dramatically. Our export point – the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, increased its capacity from 66 million tonnes per year to 91 million tonnes per year. The problem with that is that the Asians were using the local version of the coal – which is what Eskom needs to keep the lights on. But then the mines did not change their capacity to produce local coal and hence Eskom started competing with the Asian market – and predictably started running out of coal. Welcome to the 2008 load shedding crisis South Africa – thank you Glencore.

In reality the Glencore strategy had been to create an Asian market for Eskom’s coal which could be billed at international prices. In relation to Eskom itself, Glencore figured out that once the prices were increased to international standards, Eskom would have to pay anyway as they had no alternative sources for coal. By the time Glencore applied for the merger with Xstrata, the export balance had completely switched to Asia and hence the pricing was different and local coal was now scarce – even for Eskom. The more expensive it became for Eskom to get the coal in its own market, the higher the tariffs they passed on to you and I. Eskom then objected to the merger and listed their reasons. Extracts from the hearings in 2012 included the following comments by Eskom:

“the merger will add considerable critical mass to Glencore’s production activities and access to the RBCT, which will enhance Glencore’s ability to influence the market in a way that is detrimental to Eskom.”

The possible negative consequences were listed as follows –

“[3.1] possible shortages in coal supply to Eskom occasioned by the transaction;

3.2] a reduction in the quality of coal supplied to Eskom (with resultant detrimental effects on the stability of Eskom’s generation equipment and the increased possibility of unplanned outages and load shedding); and,

[3.3] a likely increase in the exporting of coal with the concomitant consequences for domestic prices of coal to Eskom (in order to prevent increased coal exports, Eskom would be required to match the economic return gained from exporting the relevant quality of coal by subjecting itself to export parity pricing.)”

Unfortunately, the Competition Commission ignored Eskom’s pleas and the merger was approved – with disastrous consequences for South Africa.

The great thing about Glasenberg is that he is very comfortable with being unpopular, and betraying friends and enemies does not stress him too much. In the merger with Xstrata, he and Mick Davis were supposed to be equal partners; and they were – for a day or 2. As soon as the merger was finalised, Glasenberg booted out Mick Davis during the first week of the merger. Davis swallowed his pride and walked away – but never forgot. Glencore became one of the biggest companies in the world and Glasenberg was one of the richest men in the world – until 2015.

Mick Davis himself is friends with that other icon of leadership – Stephen Koseff of Investec. On 13 May 2015, Mick Davis and Stephen Koseff shared a stage at Investec in Sandton and addressed a forum of young entrepreneurs. Davis did not dwell on his exit from Glencore but rather on the appropriateness of business leaders commenting on politics. A month later, Glencore – as part of its strategy of getting Eskom to pay higher prices – then threatened to dismiss 380 employees from Optimum as part of the process of shutting down the mine. In response, the Minister of Mineral Resources – Ngoako Ramathlodi – suspended Glencore’s operating licence. And then the king of state capture himself – Glasenberg – called the Minister directly and essentially told him to fuck off. The Minister lifted the suspension within moments of Glasenberg’s call. Glencore then carried on trying to bully Eskom into paying higher prices. President Jacob Zuma fired Ramathlodi 6 weeks after this scandalous incident. This was in September 2015.

And then it all started falling apart for Glasenberg. In the same week that Zwane was appointed, a blow struck at the heart of the Glasenberg empire. On a Monday morning in September 28th – 5 days after President Zuma’s appointment of Zwane – a bank in London published a note indicating that the Glencore business was in trouble. In true Glasenberg style, Glencore responded by saying the note was rubbish. But the market thought otherwise. Glencore lost 22% of its value in 1 day. Glasenberg himself lost $500 million – that is R7 billion – in that one day, and kept losing more money which eventually led him to agree to selling off Optimum Coal. The issuer of the note that started all the drama – Stephen Koseff’s Investec Bank…

And if that wasn’t enough – the Guptas decided to sell off their export licence to another company. Glencore essentially had one competitor after swallowing Xstrata. That competitor is called Vitol. 2 months ago, Tegeta sold this right that once belonged to Glasenberg to – you guessed it – Vitol. And they gave them a discount of R1,25 billion on the sale…

The curious thing about this state capture saga is that Thuli’s report did not unpack the entire journey of the Glencore story – which is sad. Given the fact that the report is so centred around the Eskom-Glencore-Gupta alliance, I honestly expected it to unpack the true mechanics of the transaction; but it only focuses on the small window of shenanigans. This report is due to be given a second phase – which must be welcomed.

It is in this second phase that we can actually ask a simple question of how we ever allowed Glasenberg to hijack our coal supply and give us the idea of load shedding – and we said nothing about it. This next phase should allow us to interrogate how we could be aware of Marc Rich stealing $22 billion through tainted oil deals with the National Party – and we then allowed his company to take over the country’s coal supply chain. This next phase should really consider how the banks and KPMG saw nothing wrong with all these shenanigans – until the colour of the capturer became darker. This report should allow Brian Molefe to finally tell his version of the story. How he found himself swept into the tornado of a story that was so much bigger than himself. How he found himself having to answer to the Saxonwold mafia only because the Swiss mafia were the bigger bullies. Brian has a fatal flaw – the initiation of the pre-payment to Tegeta. Beyond that, his is a tragic tale of the man who set out to fix a national crisis – and found himself captured by a crisis of conscience, the politics of patronage and the tragic hysteria of his own ambition. Marc Rich got lucky – Bill Clinton’s last act in office was to issue a presidential pardon to the scoundrel. It appears that Presidents have an awkward habit of getting involved with such characters – everywhere you go.

According to Fin24, the cost of load shedding in South Africa – at its peak – was R80 billion per month. Apparently, the cost of Shaun Abrahams losing his mind was R50 billion to the economy. Molefe staked his reputation on saving South Africa R80 billion per month – and lost so much more. Perhaps ours is a country so damaged we have resorted to finding the bottom of the barrel when it comes to finding leaders – and we need to fix this. Brian will pay the price – as he should. Whether we have the moral authority to determine such a price is a mystery to me. I simply do not know.

The Gupta saga is not just that they are corrupt and arrogant – it is a tragedy of how they sought out to topple the king of state capture – and did such a shockingly bad job of it all. Somebody please get them the Johann Rupert manual next time.

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