Jeff Radebe in rush to clinch dodgy R14.5bn Sudan oil deal
Energy minister Jeff Radebe is expected to fly to South Sudan to hastily finalise a questionable R14.5bn oil deal with the war-ravaged country on the eve of SA's elections.
Leaked communications show Radebe pleaded with his South Sudanese counterpart, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, to speed up the signing of the agreement, which allows the exploration of oil and gas in that country.
"We are proposing as a signing date the 6th of May 2019 to allow the teams to swiftly move ahead in setting up the structure to execute our mandated work programme and to determine the final budget under the exploration and production sharing agreements," Radebe said in his letter.
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He acknowledged that he had asked for the agreement to be signed at the 11th hour."We apologise for the short period, however, as you know we have our national elections on the 8th of May 2019," Radebe said in his letter.It is unclear why Radebe desperately wanted the deal inked before Wednesday's vote.However, insiders said Radebe wanted to seal the deal before President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed a new cabinet after Wednesday's elections.The Sunday Times previously reported how Radebe pushed for SA to invest in building an oil refinery and exploring a new oil block in South Sudan.This was done in spite of Radebe having been advised against the investment by the state's Central Energy Fund.Radebe insisted that the project would go ahead only after a full feasibility study had been concluded.
In his letter, Radebe noted that the South Sudanese delegation had come to Cape Town during the week of April 16 to negotiate an agreement.
The Sunday Times understands that once Gatkuoth has agreed to the signing of the agreement tomorrow, the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF) will ask the Treasury's supply chain office to bypass procedure on the basis of urgency.
Separate communications showed that there was a frantic effort to procure a private charter flight, at a cost of R1.5m "on an emergency basis, to take Radebe to South Sudan.
In a submission to be made by the SFF to the Treasury's supply chain office, the agency claimed that it could not follow normal procedures, which would take up to 21 working days.
"It is our submission that this situation we find ourselves in as [sic] bears the hallmarks of an emergency or urgency basis as a failure to utilise the services of a chartered flight to South Sudan by the 6th of May 2019, might threaten on [sic] interrupt SFF associations ability to execute the government mandate but not only that but cause harm to the reputation of the government of SA as the honourable minister Jeff Radebe is expected by his counterpart of South Sudan to grace the occasion," according to the submission by the SFF.
The Treasury had authorised the deviation but a source claimed that some concern had been raised over why the SFF and Radebe were rushing to sign an agreement and allocate budgets for the project before the feasibility study had been done.
SFF acting CEO Godfrey Moagi did not respond to questions sent to him.
Radebe, too, had not responded at the time of going to press.
Ramaphosa's office confirmed that the president had authorised the trip.However, it did not comment on whether Radebe was acting on the president's instructions."I can confirm the receipt of the letter and the authorisation of the trip," said Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Khusela Diko.She said she could not comment on the purpose of the trip and referred questions to Radebe's office.After the Sunday Times reported details of the $1bn (R14.5bn) deal, Radebe denied any impropriety.He said the project was an effort to mitigate rising fuel prices."We do not have oil resources," Radebe said at the time."The fuel price increases all the time. So when a government and its entities try to solve that problem, some people want us to stop."The Sunday Times quoted sources saying that crude oil in South Sudan was not suitable for SA's refineries.