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Ace pulls diplomatic strings for Steinhoff-linked pal

Roshan Morar, the former ­— and controversial — deputy chairperson of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) board, appears to be set to join South Africa’s diplomatic corps, if ANC secretary general Ace Magashule gets his way.

Morar currently chairs the board of the Ithala Group.

The Mail & Guardian can reveal Magashule has recommended to the governing party’s deployment committee, headed by Deputy President David Mabuza, that Morar be given an ambassador’s slot from January 2021.

While South Africa’s embassies are generally headed by career diplomats, the governing party has used ambassadorial postings to provide a number of disgraced leaders and bureaucrats with a lifeline after their fall from grace.

Morar received a number of appointments to public entity boards from 2009, having previously consulted for government in mainly KwaZulu-Natal, before branching out to the Free State province and elsewhere.

A Pietermaritzburg-based accountant, Morar is a former Airports Company of South Africa board chairperson and chaired the South Africa National Roads Agency’s (Sanral) board. During his Sanral term, Morar came under fire in Parliament over the entity’s irregular expenditure of R1.6-billion during the 2015-16 financial year and was accused by MPs of being lax about corruption. 

The Mpati commission found that while Morar was chairperson of the PIC’s investment committee, the committee approved a billion-rand loan to the Lancaster Group to buy a 2.7 % stake in the Steinhoff Group. Morar had been appointed to the board of L101, a Lancaster subsidiary, which represented a conflict of interest. The bulk of the PIC’s R9.4-billion investment in Steinhoff through the deal had to be written off.

An impeccable source close to the process, who asked to remain anonymous, said Magashule, whose Free State administration had retained Morar’s firm, made the recommendation to the deployment committee earlier this month.

“Magashule gave Morar Incorporated lots of consultancy work between 2009 and 2017 in the Free State department of finance. Now he’s nominated him to the deployment committee for an ambassador’s post. There’s no agreement on where he will serve yet,” the source said.

Morar said he was surprised by the news and said he had no knowledge of any such process. “This is news to me,” he said. 

Magashule had not responded to calls requesting comment by the time of publication. 

Lunga Ngqengelele, the spokesperson for the international relations minister, Naledi Pandor, did not respond to calls and messages from the M&G.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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