THE CALLS for a local investigation into the activities of diversified miner Glencore are intensifying as civil society organisations have requested South Africa to look at its relationship with the company following it being found guilty of corruption.
Bench Marks Foundation, Corruption Watch and South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), supported the calls from civil rights groups in countries where bribes took place to conduct further probes into Glencore.
The Anglo-Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company this month admitted to paying more than $100 million (R1.5 billion) in bribes to officials in Brazil, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, South Sudan and Venezuela between 2007 and 2018.
On Friday, the Bench Marks Foundation, which has conducted investigations on Glencore on pollution in some African countries, said there needed to be an investigation into Glencore in Africa, particularly in South Africa.
It said it was not surprised by the latest allegations that had come out regarding corruption of Glencore and its officials.
In an interview, Bench Marks chief researcher David van Wyk said: “In the past, we pointed out direct incidents of very problematic allegations that are now proven in the US, which happened in the DRC. We have been saying this since 2010, and now it's come out.”
Van Wyk said Glencore and South Africa had a long history and that warrants an investigation on its South African dealings.
“We suspect that Glencore was involved in bribes in South Africa, but worse we suspect that it and other companies are involved in tax haven fraud. These companies are registered in tax havens like Zurich in Switzerland or Cayman Islands. They mine the minerals here and sell them below global prices to themselves in those countries and then sell them at high global prices, that way they avoid paying tax here,” he said.
Van Wyk said if Glencore could be found guilty of corruption in the US, how was South Africa exempted?
“If they could participate in bribing and price-fixing around America, how much of that happened in Africa? How is it that SA escaped that? I don’t believe that for a moment,” he said.
Van Wyk said an investigation of Glencore in South Africa would depend on the upcoming ANC conference, as the company has ties to the ruling political party.
“If the current factions win that conference there will be no investigation. If the opposing faction wins that conference, then, there will be an investigation. This means the investigation would not be based on principle, or on ethics, it would be based on opportunism, and faction power in the ruling party,” he said.
Corruption Watch senior researcher Melusi Ncala said it was concerning and troubling that Glencore was in the midst of a huge scandal in a climate where there were talks of anti-corruption efforts and good business ethics.
“It’s problematic that a company is not forthcoming in as far as its dealings in other parts of the world. In light of what the US government has found against them. There should be some kind of investigation looking into Glencore’s affairs. But then again, we had the State Capture Commission, we are asking what can be done with that kind of information that was collated in that particular setting?” he said.
Ncala said Glencore was mentioned in the State Capture Commission by a few witnesses.
Last week, Glencore chief executive Gary Nagle acknowledged the misconduct identified in these probes and said the company had co-operated with the authorities, while cleaning up its ethics.
Van Wyk said what he didn’t like about the company was that it blamed the individuals that were mentioned in the investigation instead of blaming itself.
“It is the culture of that organisation. That company was the one that managed to get arms in SA during apartheid. They also got oil from the apartheid government to run their military by dubious means,” according to Van Wyk.
Ncala agreed with Van Wyk and said: “To say that people have left the organisation as a form of defence to ward off any enquiry is preposterous. It is very disingenuous, in this particular era, we are looking for ethical leadership, we need to bear in mind that Glencore is a company that is a legal person so an entity needs to look at how it conducts itself,” he said.
Saftu on Friday also called on the government to initiate investigations into all Glencore operations.
“We have a reason to believe, because of Glencore’s notoriety in dealing with commodities across the world over the years, that it may have been involved in bribery,” it said.