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Guptas gamble on nuclear

Johannesburg - Government’s controversial strategy to include nuclear power in its plan to keep SA’s lights on is back in the spotlight after African Confidential revealed that the Gupta family stands to benefit from a nuclear deal.

The London-based publication reports that President Jacob Zuma’s shocking firing of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene last December, a move that resulted in the rand losing further ground initially, was actually a bid to get around resistance to the nuclear plan.

At present, South Africa has only one nuclear power station: Eskom's Koeberg facility outside Cape Town. File picture: Bruce Sutherland, City of Cape Town. Credit: SUPPLIED

This follows on Independent's revelation last December that the controversial nuclear deal was behind Nene's axing, rather than his fallout with SAA board chair Dudu Myeni as was reported at the time. Independent also broke the news of Nene's pending ouster.

Nene was unceremoniously sacked and replaced by relative unknown David van Rooyen before Zuma made an about turn a few days later and brought back Pravin Gordhan as finance minister. Nene had stated that cost of any nuclear build would be carefully monitored.

Now African Confidential is reporting that the main beneficiaries of the nuclear deal, which could cost SA as much as R1 trillion, are the Guptas, who have links with Zuma. The London publication reports that the Guptas influenced Zuma to appoint Van Rooyen as their intention was to secure uranium contracts for the nuclear plants, in a similar fashion to the way they secured a coal mine that supplies about a sixth of Arnot power station’s coal needs.

Bloomberg reported last week that Oakbay Investments, owned by the Gupta family, controls Oakbay Resources & Energy. Mabengela, in which Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, has a stake, also has an interest in the Shiva Uranium operation, which the Gupta family controls through Oakbay. Duduzane Zuma and Gupta family members are directors of at least 11 of the same companies, publicly available documents show.

Towards the end of last year, Tegeta Exploration and Resources, a company owned by Oakbay Investments and Mabengela Investments, purchased a former Glencore mine, Optimum, which had been placed into bankruptcy protection.

African Confidential also reports that another part of the Gupta’s strategy was to place to of its allies, which it names as Mohamed Bobat and Ian Whitley, as advisors to Van Rooyen. “Whitley is a former head of small and medium enterprises at the defunct African Bank. When Van Rooyen was replaced at the Treasury, the two men went with him to his new portfolio of Local Government and Traditional Affairs, and appeared with him when he was sworn in on December 10.”

The publication says Bobat and Whitley, associates of the Guptas, told National Treasury officials that they would be able to sign expenditure and other authorisations on behalf of the new minister, but this would be the only change.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy is expected to give a progress report in Parliament tomorrow on the nuclear power project after Zuma reiterated the government’s pro-nuclear stance.

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