Johannesburg - While the controversial Gupta family asked to meet former Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramathlodi when he was appointed to the portfolio, the minister’s advisor has downplayed its significance.
Mahlodi Muofhe told Independent Media that many people, including the Guptas, asked to meet Ramathlodi, who has since being moved to the Department of Public Service and Administration.
He said Ramathlodi declined the invite as he did with a number of other people.
“If you remember at that time there was a five-month platinum belt strike that the minister had to deal with. He was taking no invites except to resolve the strike,” Muiofhe said.
The minister then had to deal with the consequences of the strike, including the threat of mass retrenchments and a shaky mining sector. He never met the Guptas.
At the time when Ramathlodi was shifted by President Jacob Zuma there was concern across the board as he appeared to finally have a handle on the industry. He was replaced by little known Mosebenzi Zwane, who is said to have ties with the Guptas.
Earlier this year the DA called on Zwane to explain how Tegeta Exploration and Resources, a company that is linked to the Gupta family, was named the preferred bidder for Glencore’s Optimum Mine following public outrage over the controversial R2.15 billion deal.
The DA said in a statement on Thursday that the Gupas request compounded suspicions over the replacement of Ramatlhodi. It asked if he had been replaced at the Guptas’ behest?
“Earlier this year Minister Zwane accompanied the Guptas to Switzerland to visit Glencore in order to negotiate the purchase of their Optimum Colliery by Tegeta Exploration.
“Tegeta, which is co-owned by the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma, managed to secure highly lucrative coal supply contracts for two Eskom power stations in conjunction with their purchase of Optimum. Curiously, when Optimum was owned by Glencore it was slapped with a R2.5 billion fine for supplying poor quality cool. This issue has reportedly been resolved after the change in ownership,” said DA MP James Lorimer.