Key arms deal lobbyist and apartheid-era sanctions buster Tony Georgiadis is part President Jacob Zuma’s 213-person-strong business delegation in the United Kingdom.
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The delegation includes a number of key Zuma backers (and his son, Duduzani), who attended business meetings with representatives of the British private sector this week.
Zuma’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, told the Mail & Guardian it was “grossly unfair” to accuse the president of preferential treatment, as invitations had been handled by the department of trade and industry and Business Unity South Africa (Busa).
He did not respond to specific questions about the appropriateness of inviting Georgiadis.
The business group is an eclectic mix of small entrepreneurs, mid-level executives from bigger companies and representatives of civil society.
The delegation is thin on captains of local industry — other than resource tycoons Patrice Motsepe and Lazarus Zim, Investec managing director Bernard Kantor, Thebe chairperson Vusi Khanyile, ArcelorMittal chief executive Nku Nyembezi-Heita and Netcare boss Richard Friedland.
Maria Ramos isn’t there. Nor are Sizwe Nxasana, Peter Matlare, Pieter Uys, Jacko Maree and Phuthuma Nhleko. And you won’t find representatives from Basil Read, Hosken Consolidated Investments, Shoprite or the Anglo mining houses on the list.
Georgiadis, representing his family shipping company, Alandis, gained prominence in South Africa when his wife Elita’s affair with former president FW de Klerk led to their divorce.
But Georgiadis’s links with South Africa go much deeper than that. Alandis was one of the main shippers of crude oil to apartheid South Africa, breaching international sanctions.
Georgiadis’s name appeared again when Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille released her “arms deal dossier” in 1999, identifying him as a lobbyist for German arms companies.
In 2008 the M&G revealed that Georgiadis received $22-million from ship-builder Thyssen for lobbying fees and paid more than three amounts of R500 000 to the ANC and two charities linked to Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graça.
Georgiadis told the M&G this week that he was accompanying Zuma’s delegation “to certain functions” and that he “certainly has no comment to make … I am a friend of South Africa, irrespective of who is the president”.
Some of Zuma’s political and business allies on the list are:
- Zuma’s friend and Durban businessman, Vivian Reddy, of the Edison Corporation, who paid R181 000 towards the bond on Zuma’s Nkandla homestead;
- Nora Fakude, chair of Mpumalanga-based Buscor. Fakude paid the builder of Zuma’s homestead R140 000;
- ANC treasurer general and businessman Mathews Phosa. Phosa is listed as “executive treasurer” and the name of his employer has been left blank;
- Duduzani Zuma, Zuma’s son and managing director of Mabengela Investments. Duduzani recently penned an open letter on behalf of Zuma’s children after the president’s latest love child was revealed;
- Sandile Zungu, executive chairperson of Zungu Investment Corporation, who is a close ally of Zuma. Zungu was at one stage tipped to become director general in the presidency;
- Ivor Ichikowitz, executive chairperson of Trans Africa Capital, who has flown Zuma on his luxurious Boeing 727 to private ANC meetings in Lebanon and Kazakhstan;
- Jayendra Naidoo, executive chairperson of the J&J Group and former ANC underground operative. Naidoo ran the ANC’s Operation Bible with Shaik brothers Yunis and Moe, and reported to Zuma as ANC intelligence chief. Naidoo was also government’s chief negotiator of the arms deal package; and
- Robert Gumede, executive chairperson of GijimaAST and a public ANC funder.
Magwenya said: “Those interested in being part of the business delegation accompanying the president will … register their participation with Busa. Therefore, the presidency plays no role whatsoever in this process.”
The “co-convener” of the ANC’s progressive business forum, Renier Schoeman, is also part of the delegation. According to Magwenya delegation members cover their own travel and accommodation costs during the visit.