Shanduka Group has denied that Minister of Water Edna Molewa had discussions with it about water licences for its coal operations.
Shanduka group executive chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa has never had a discussion with the minister of water and environmental affairs about water licences, the company said on Friday.
"Shanduka Coal made every effort to fully comply with all requirements for the consideration of its water-use licences," said chief executive Phuti Mahanyele. He was responding to a report in the Mail & Guardian that Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa allegedly intervened to prevent action against mining companies linked to businessman Cyril Ramaphosa over water licences.
More than five companies owned or partly owned by Ramaphosa's Shanduka Group were listed by the department as having operated without water licences, the M&G reported.
Mahanyele said the delay in the granting of these licences for a number of Shanduka coal operations was the result of a backlog at the department of water affairs that affected mining companies across the country.
"Since 2006, Shanduka Coal has been taking over operations already in existence and, in each instance, embarked on a process to obtain the necessary water-use licences.
"The first licence applications had already been submitted by the previous owners, and Shanduka Coal continued with the process of updating and revising the water use applications in line with the department of water affairs' guidelines."
No legal action
He said no legal action was instituted against Shanduka group or Shanduka Coal, and they were not taken to court. "The department of water affairs issued a notice of intention to issue a directive early in 2012.
"To protect its legal position, the company indicated its intention to launch an urgent application to the high court to interdict the issuing of any pending directive, to review the unreasonable delay in making a decision on the licences, and to compel the department to take a decision within a time period determined by the court."
He said in its dealings with the department, the company maintained that it had provided all information necessary to facilitate consideration of its water use licences and had made every effort to fully comply with any and all requirements of the department to date.
"It became unnecessary for Shanduka to launch any application since, after consultation with the department, a timeline was agreed on the processing of the water use licences and they were subsequently processed and issued."
The M&G said two senior departmental officials had confirmed that the department had taken Shanduka to court. Molewa's intervention reportedly ensured an out-of-court settlement. "She instructed officials in the department to find a way of settling out of court," an unnamed government official told the newspaper.
Molewa reportedly said: "I never knew that Cyril had something to do with those companies until the deputy minister [Rejoice Mabudafhasi] in the department issued instructions that they [Shanduka companies] must stop operation," said Molewa.
Nigel Adams, director of compliance, monitoring and enforcement in the department, confirmed that it went to court to stop Shanduka from operating, but denied intervention by Molewa. – Sapa