Mystery of Nkuhlu's Zama shareholding

Is presidential economic adviser Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu a shareholder in Zama Resources Corporation, the company alleged to have bought favour to secure a R335-million forestry privatisation deal?

His personal assistant Jeannette Tate says: “He is not a shareholder. He was never a shareholder.” But a copy of the company share register obtained by the Mail & Guardian shows Nkuhlu was allocated five million shares.

“That’s an administrative error,” says Mlungisi Kwini, acting CEO of Zama. Kwini, brought into the company recently, said the share register was clouded by “a degree of confusion” that the Zama board was trying to clear up.
He confirmed that the Midlands Economic Equity Group, with which Nkuhlu is still associated, was a shareholder.

The significance of Nkuhlu’s involvement is that his nephew, Andile Nkuhlu, led the adjudication team that recommended Zama as the preferred bidder for the state’s Komatiland forestry assets. The reality or absence of such conflicts of interest is expected to be addressed soon when several inquiries into the deal disclose their findings.

Andile Nkuhlu, a chief director in the department of public enterprises, was suspended earlier this year following disclosure by the Sunday Times that he received R55 000 from Zama towards his wedding costs. The Zama board suspended CEO Mcebisi Mlonzi, who authorised the payment.

Kwini said the internal report of an investigation by auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers had been received by the company and the board would pro-bably make a statement on Monday.

The investigation into Nkuhlu by the Public Service Commission has also been completed, it is understood, and is being reviewed by the commission’s legal adviser before being handed to Minister of Public Enterprises Jeff Radebe.

A source said the investigation had confirmed the payment to Andile Nkuhlu. It had also requested that the investigation be widened.

An investigation by the Office of the Auditor General is expected to take longer as the auditor general has been tasked with reviewing the tender and selection process.

Another consortium, Indian-based Paharpur, has been asked to extend its offer as a reserve bidder, but also faced allegations from Zama that its own bid was compromised by a meeting with former Department of Water Affairs and Forestry official Lael Bethlehem.

Bethlehem was also on the bid evaluation panel, but the department claims there was nothing improper about the meeting.

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