Glencore willing to testify at state-capture inquiry, says CEO Ivan Glasenberg

04 December 2018 - 10:29
By Lisa Steyn
Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg.
Image: BLOOMBERG/ANDREY RUDAKOV Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg.

Resources giant Glencore is prepared to testify at the state capture commission of inquiry about its experience with its former Optimum Coal, which ended up in the hands of the Gupta family, according to CEO Ivan Glasenberg.

Optimum Coal, a supplier to Eskom, was a key battleground in the attempt by private interests to capture the state.

The change of ownership from Glencore to the Guptas, friends of former president Jacob Zuma, who stand accused of using links with him to further their business interests, was central to the findings of the public protector, which led to the formation of the Zondo commission of inquiry.

Speaking on a conference call on Monday, SA-born Glasenberg said the diversified miner was willing to share its experience as a former owner of Optimum Coal.

“If called upon to talk about the experience, we would be willing to do so,” he said.

Commission chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, has pleaded for witnesses to come forward. SA banks have testified that they came under immense pressure to keep Gupta bank accounts open, after they decided to close them due to suspicious transactions.

So far, the witness testimony has been largely from public officials.

Former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi told the commission last week how Zuma removed him from his post in 2015 after he refused to revoke Glencore’s mining licences, as was allegedly demanded of him by then Eskom chair Ben Ngubane.

Eskom reinstated a disputed R2bn penalty on Optimum for supplying substandard coal, which forced Glencore to put the mine into business rescue.

After that, it was acquired by the Gupta family’s Tegeta Exploration and Resources.

In former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s “State of Capture” report it was found that former Eskom executives had advanced the Guptas R600m to help them acquire the mine.

In February, Optimum and eight other Gupta-linked entities were placed under business rescue — a provision in law for the rehabilitation of distressed companies. As part of the rescue plan, Optimum is now up for sale, and it is expected that a deal could be concluded before the end of 2018. Glasenberg, however, said that Glencore was “not making any moves” to acquire Optimum again.

Meanwhile, Eskom, which supplies virtually all of SA’s energy needs, is facing a coal-supply crunch that has contributed to the return of load shedding, with devastating repercussions for the SA economy.

Ten out of Eskom’s 15 coal-fired power stations do not have sufficient coal stocks.

Glencore had stepped in to help plug the supply gap, Glasenberg said.

“It’s clear they require more coal. We are doing whatever we can to assist.”