Eskom in court to recover R3.8bn; CR on PPE ‘scavengers’; SAB cans R2.5bn upgrades; Choppies; Shoprite

By Linda van Tilburg

  • Eskom and the Special Investigating Unit have issued a summons in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria against former executives and board members, seeking to recover about R3.8bn that it alleges was diverted illegally. They say in a statement that the funds were used to help the politically connected Gupta family acquire operations of Optimum Coal Holdings, which supplied the fuel to one of the utility’s power plants. Eskom has been reviewing major contracts awarded in recent years in a bid to recover any losses suffered through illegal or irregular activity. The 12 defendants in the claim brought by the indebted utility include former Eskom Chief Executive Officer Brian Molefe and former Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane, along with Gupta family members and associates.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to deal harshly with the alleged corruption in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) calling those who profited from the Covid-19 pandemic ‘scavengers’ and ‘a pack of hyenas circling wounded prey’. In his weekly newsletter said he found it difficult to understand the lack of conscience that led a businessperson who had heeded the call to provide life-saving supplies during a devastating pandemic to inflate the price of a surgical mask by as much as 900%. He said the reports of corruption in the procurement and deployment of PPE had caused outrage among South Africans and had opened up the wounds of the state capture era. Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko and the Gauteng MEC for Health Bandile Masuku took a leave of absence after they had been linked to tender scandals.
  • The alcohol ban has prompted South African Breweries to pull the plug on billions of rand in plant upgrades. SAB announced that it has cancelled R2.5 billion in capital and infrastructure upgrades and is reviewing another R2.5bn for 2021. SAB’s Vice-President of Finance, Andrew Murray said in a statement that the cancellation of the planned expenditure is a direct consequence of having lost 12 full trading weeks, which equates to about 30% of SAB’s annual production. According to SAB, 120,000 people in South Africa’s liquor industry risked losing their jobs due to the alcohol ban. The initial ban cost the state R12bn in lost taxes.
  • Choppies Enterprises will close its supermarkets in several African nations including South Africa to concentrate on growth in Botswana, where it’s listed. The Gaborone-based retailer plans to close supermarkets in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique because they aren’t profitable, according to Chief Executive Officer Ramachandran Ottapathu. Instead, it will add stores in Botswana this year and explore new markets.
  • Another company that has indicated a retreat from African markets, is Shoprite that indicated it is considering the selling, or reduction of its stake in its Nigerian subsidiary. It comes as Shoprite’s second-half climbed as it gained market share with the initial strict lockdown boosting the retailer’s sales as grocers were among the few shops allowed to trade. Sales in its core South African business rose 9.4% in the last three months through June. Shoprite shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange soared, closing the day 8.47% higher.

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