Oilgate: Freedom Front Plus goes for broke

The Freedom Front Plus says that even if the Oilgate scandal ruins the party financially, it won’t disclose its sources and will contest empowerment company Imvume Management court bid to force it to do so.

The issue stems from disclosures about the scandal that FF+ chief whip Corne Mulder made in the National Assembly in June.

In May, Imvume obtained a court order gagging the Mail & Guardian from revealing that it donated R11-million to the African National Congress before last year’s general elections.

The money was part of R15-million Imvume received from PetroSA as an “advance” for oil condensate, which came from international resource trader Glencore International.

Instead of paying the money to Glencore, Imvume allegedly paid it to the ANC as a donation. When Imvume did not pay Glencore, PetroSA allegedly had to pay another R15-million to Glencore.

Imvume lifted the order against the M&G after the FF+, using its parliamentary privilege, disclosed details of the transaction.

In a notice of motion tabled in the Assembly, Mulder said Imvume allegedly made payments to a company owned by Bonga Mlambo (brother of Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was then minerals and energy minister) and to a company that undertook renovations to the private home of Minister of Social Development Zola Skweyiya, from the funds paid to it by PetroSA.

The party also laid a complaint against PetroSA for maladministration of public funds, following the motion tabled in Parliament.

The public protector investigated the matter, but ruled that there was no wrongdoing on PetroSA’s part at the time.

Subsequent to the publication of the public protector’s findings, the FF+ also laid charges of fraudulent and reckless trading against Imvume with the Cape Town police.

Imvume then threatened to take the FF+ to court unless it disclosed its sources, which the FF+ said it would not do. Imvume has since filed a court application to have the FF+ declared in contempt and compel it to disclose its sources for the information.

“From the FF Plus’ point of view, this is a very serious matter that fundamentally affects the principles of parliamentary privilege, the right of freedom of speech and press freedom,” the party said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Politically we are approaching the local government elections.
Local elections are very expensive, as they are contested in thousands of wards. We were advised that a court case […] will be very expensive.

“We understand that if we stand to lose the case having to pay legal costs, it may ruin the party financially,” said the statement. “Yet the FF+ decided that we won’t disclose our sources and that we shall contest the case in court.”

MP Willie Spies told the Mail & Guardian Online that the FF+ is doing this because its defence is strong.

“We brought out the statement [on Wednesday] to indicate how important the issue is to us. It is worth taking the risk because of our good defence, and we acted according to our beliefs and conscience. The truth eventually comes out. In this case, we just have to be patient.

“We are looking forward to the actual court case. It is an opportunity to have the matter debated on a forum that is supposed to be neutral.”

In its statement, the FF+ said: “This is a very serious matter that fundamentally affects the principles of parliamentary privilege, the right of freedom of speech and press freedom.”