Zwane defends meeting with Guptas

18 October 2017 - 16:10 By Babalo Ndenze
Mosebenzi Zwane. File photo.
Mosebenzi Zwane. File photo.
Image: Sizwe Ndingane

A defiant mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane has brushed off allegations that he is captured‚ defending his decision to meet with the Gupta family.

Zwane appeared before parliament's mineral resources oversight committee on Wednesday to answer questions on allegations of state capture and his personal involvement.

He faced a string of questions from MPs on his personal relationship with the Guptas‚ his trips abroad to facilitate the sale of Optimum Coal to Gupta-owned Tegeta‚ as well as the failed Vrede farm project during his time as an MEC in the Free State.

While Zwane didn’t deny reports that he travelled to Dubai and Switzerland to facilitate the sale of Optimum Coal to Gupta-owned Tegeta‚ he said there was nothing untoward and it was all state business and mining companies were his "clients".

He instead asked the committee why its members were only interested in the Gupta family.

An almost flippant Zwane appeared dismissive of questions put to him by MPs asking the committee: “Am I under investigation?”

He called for “specifics”‚ saying the letter from parliament “was “very vague” as it just said “state capture come and answer”.

“We have to deal with facts‚ leave fictions and rumours and allegations. As honourable members we should be honourable enough to deal with facts not media allegations. Specifically‚ what are the questions I need to answer related to this issue of state capture so that I know‚” said Zwane.

Zwane is currently facing charges of high treason‚ extortion‚ corruption‚ fraud and theft which have been laid against him by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).

The charges relate to Zwane’s alleged role in helping the Gupta family to acquire the Optimum Coal Mine.

Zwane also stands accused of allegedly channelling money from the Free State Vrede Dairy Farm project to fund the Guptas’ niece’s Sun City wedding.

He said he answered questions put to him by MPs “more than 10 times” in different platforms.

“I just wish members could take notes so that we do not forget them and bring them back again‚” said Zwane. He said his trips to Dubai were not to meet only the Guptas and that he also meet with Glencore owners.

“I have answered that. I meet many business people as I do my work. It is the same with this family. Why this family? Why is this portfolio committee just interested in my meeting with just one family? In Dubai I also met some interesting business people including business people from South Africa in the diamond industry‚” Zwane said.

On the Vrede dairy farm project‚ Zwane distanced himself saying he didn't approve the project. Zwane is the former MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development‚ Tourism and Environmental Affairs in the Free State.

"It was approved by the whole Free State legislature‚ even EFF. There are records that the DA supported the project‚” said Zwane.

He said he knew nothing about the R30-million from the dairy project which is alleged to have funded a lavish Gupta family wedding at Sun City. “Whose wedding? - because my wedding was a long time ago‚” said Zwane.

This led to the EFF’s Nazier Paulsen calling Zwane “mad and crazy”.

Paulsen also asked Zwane whether he met with anyone from Tegeta to discuss sale of Optimum Coal.

“The minister is deliberately side tracking us‚” said Paulsen.

Before adjourning the meeting‚ committee chairperson Zet Luzipho said from a committee point of view‚ they would have to look at whether Zwane in his application of executive authority “acted irregularly”.