Bridgette Radebe is the wife of cabinet minister Jeff Radebe. File picture : Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg - A bitter war has erupted between Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi and mining magnate Bridgette Radebe over mining deals. Radebe is the wife of Ramatlhodi’s cabinet colleague, Jeff Radebe, who is Minister in the Presidency.

An angry Ramatlhodi on Saturday accused Radebe of trying to blackmail him and hold him to ransom.

Radebe, who is also president of the South African Mining Development Association and chairwoman of Mmakau Mining, apparently crossed swords with Ramatlhodi after she allegedly failed in her bid to block Exxaro Resources’ acquisition of Total Coal South Africa (TCSA).

Mmakau Mining is a 26 percent BEE partner in TCSA’s Dorstfontein and Forzando collieries.

The two allegedly locked horns when Radebe opposed transfer of the prospecting and mining rights from TCSA to Exxaro, which had to be approved by Ramatlhodi because she wanted to become the BEE partner in the deal.

Exxaro agreed to buy TCSA last year, primarily to get greater access to the export market through TCSA’s shareholding in the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.

The deal was held up because the government had not granted the required Section 11 approval for the transfer of the prospecting and mining rights.

However, earlier this month, Exxaro received the approval from Ramatlhodi and also negotiated a much lower price with TCSA owing to the decline in the coal price during the year it took to approve.

Exxaro paid about R2.2 billion for the deal.

This apparently upset Radebe because Ramatlhodi approved the deal without consulting her and without giving in to Radebe’s demand that he not sign off on the deal.

Ramatlhodi signed off a revised form so that Exxaro could establish a new and bigger black broad-based company that would be more representative, according to sources close to the situation.

South Africa requires mines to be at least 26 percent-owned by black investors as a way to redress economic disparities created by apartheid rule.

Exxaro is at least 52 percent-owned by black shareholders.

The Sunday Independent has been told that Ramatlhodi’s approval of the transaction apparently unleashed Radebe’s fury as she openly expressed her dissatisfaction during a meeting of the Mining Sector National Consultative Forum in Pretoria, which was convened by President Jacob Zuma.

She is said to have indirectly attacked Ramatlhodi as she raised concerns about politicians who have a conflict of interest as a result of their involvement in mining.

Ramatlhodi told The Sunday Independent on Saturday he was “not obliged to consult Mrs Radebe before concluding the deal”.

He also confirmed that he was aware of Radebe’s unhappiness.

He added: “No one can hold me ransom. She wants to blackmail me by referring to the mining shares that I have acquired during my divorce proceedings.”

He disclosed that the acquisition of his shares occurred through his divorce from Ouma Ramatlhodi, who is a 28 percent shareholder in a company called Legakabje Mining and Exploration.

Having been married in community of property, he acquired half of her shares at the settlement of their divorce.

He said his fallout with Radebe had not affected his working relationship with Jeff Radebe.

The value of his shares is estimated to be R10 million.

In October last year, Radebe gave a presentation during the Mining Sector Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum and asked the president not to sign the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act Amendment Bill into law.

“So we said to the president, please president don’t sign. So I am not sure what his final decision will be. It is not a decision against the chamber or for or against someone,” she was quoted as saying at the time.

A source within the mining industry said it was unfair for Radebe to want to acquire more stakes in mining ventures while she had not yet paid “millions” for stakes she had acquired in “Richards Bay deals”.

She is the older sister of businessman Patrice Motsepe and the younger sister of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s wife, Dr Tshepo Motsepe.

Radebe could not be contacted to give her side of the story despite repeated attempts by phone and by SMS.

The Sunday Independent