/ 16 September 2011

Cosatu unions share business interests with King Mswati III

A number of Cosatu trade unions are business partners of Swaziland’s monarch, Mswati III, despite the union federation’s strident campaign against the king’s dictatorial rule and criticism of South Africa’s offer of a R2.4-billion loan to the cash-strapped country.

The Mail & Guardian can reveal that Cosatu’s health affiliate, Nehawu, and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have joint interests in a number of Swazi businesses with Mswati through his personal investment arm, Tibiyo Taka Ngwane.

The Mail & Guardian recently reported that the Nehawu Investment Company was involved in a consortium with ANC investment vehicle Chancellor House to buy Swaziland’s Maloma Colliery Mine from Xstrata in May last year.

The Nehawu Investment Company is understood to hold 36% of shares in the mine and Tibiyo has 25%.

An internal document acquired by the M&G showed that the investment company played the role of financial broker and led negotiations with banks, creditors and other investors.

Its former chief executive, Sello Mkhondo, who resigned last year, served as a director of the company used as the vehicle for the purchase.

Also a director was Sibusisiwe Mngomezulu, who is a former director of Tibiyo-owned Tibiyo Insurance Brokers, the brother of Mswati’s senior wife and a “business development executive” employed by Chancellor House.

In response to questions, Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini said the federation did not have a formal process to vet the business dealings of unions’ investment companies.

“There are consents [required]. It’s going to be critical that unions speak with their investment companies not to invest in companies in Swaziland in the current situation, especially those linked with the king.

“Swaziland is suffering due to the manner the king is handling the finances of the country. While we are joining the call of the people of Swaziland, let us be responsible and place conditions when dealing with that country,” Dlamini said.

Hotel owner Peermont Global, which is 33% owned by the NUM’s Mineworkers’ Investment Company, has recently entered into a joint venture with African Alliance in a bid to buy the Royal Swazi Sun Hotel.

Sources have described the managing director of African Alliance, S’thofeni Ginindza, as Mswati’s financial adviser.

Tibiyo owns 40% of Swazi Spa Holdings.

The chief executive of the Mineworkers’ Investment Company, Paul Nkuna, said the company was not aware that Tibiyo was a shareholder in Swazi Spa Holdings and promised to investigate.

“I haven’t heard Cosatu saying no one can do business with the king. We have not applied our minds to it because there are no sanctions,” Nkuna said.

“In future, we should investigate the companies that we engage with and a discussion needs to be held among unions on the impact our business deals have on the people of Swaziland. We will look into the matter and make a decision.”

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka insisted that the union’s investment company would not deliberately enter into business deals associated with the king.

“The National Union of Mine workers will be reluctant to be associated in any way with the king and has communicated this to the Mineworkers’ Investment Company, stating that it would be prepared to oppose the move on moral grounds if Mswati is in the picture.

“As [the union] we have raised our displeasure and will continue to do so,” Seshoka said.

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