Eskom arrests over corruption; Bain manager turns; Rand shines, More land-reform details; Lesotho’s dagga plans

By Linda van Tilburg

  • Two senior ex-managers at Eskom and a number of other suspects have been arrested by the South African Police over allegations of fraud, corruption and money laundering at the Kusile power plant. Abram Masango, a former executive at Eskom, Mangope Hlakudi, a former contract manager, Antonio da Costa Trindade and Maphoko Kgomoeswana were released on bail after appearing into court in Johannesburg. Contracts were allegedly manipulated by senior managers through Eskom’s procurement systems and included a R745 million deal for the construction of two air-cooled condenser units at Kusile. The accused being investigated are alleged to have shared R30 million amongst themselves. More on the role of Forensics for Justice’s Paul O’ Sullivan in the arrest of Trindade in an interview on the Biznews website.
  • A former partner at Bain’s South African business said he will testify at the Zondo Commission about the firm’s involvement in allegedly trying to facilitate corrupt dealings. Athol Williams plans to detail his concerns that Bain may have tried to clear a path for government officials and politically connected individuals to plunder state resources. Williams told Bloomberg that the company’s involvement in state capture possibly went beyond that of their role in advising on the restructuring of the country’s tax authority. He suspected Bain was trying to cover up the full extent of its role in facilitating corruption as it refused to provide him with an investigate report and notes taken during interviews with employees. Bain did acknowledge its work for the South African Revenue Service was a “serious failure.”
  • The Rand surged to a 4-month high yesterday after ratings agency Fitch held off on pushing the country’s rating lower. South Africa avoided sub-investment grade holding on to the BB+ with a negative outlook rating. Fitch warned that a downgrade could be triggered if the government cannot rein in its debt and said South Africa’s ratings are constrained by low growth potential, high and rising government debt, large contingent liabilities as well as the risk of rising social tensions due to extremely high inequality. The Rand was trading at R14.23 to the dollar at the end of the trading day yesterday.
  • More details of the recommendations of the land-reform advisory panel that had been approved by Cabinet has been revealed. The Government rejected proposals to limit the size of farms. Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza said because of different agricultural conditions across the country; more fertile areas may warrant smaller farms than those in more arid parts of the country. A recommendation for a dedicated land-reform fund was also dismissed as it could be funded through the current budgeting process. The Cabinet did not provide clarity on expropriation without compensation and the Ingonyama Trust that the panel recommended should be dissolved.
  • Lesotho wants to export its cannabis or dagga to the world. Cannabis has been cultivated across Lesotho for a long time and is easier to grow and more lucrative than other crops such as maize and sugar cane. The Lesotho government is trying to spur development of legal plantations supplying the global medical cannabis industry to broaden its tax base – currently dominated by exports of diamonds, water and wool and they are trying to create jobs. The mountain kingdom became the first African nation in 2018 to license the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use.
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