/ 26 August 2022

Gwede Mantashe accused of meddling in mining rights

Gwede Mantashe Ed 378903
Gwede Mantashe, the minerals resources and energy minister.

A manganese mine near Kuruman, Northern Cape, is at the centre of a bitter battle involving a Hawks investigation, allegations of nepotism against Gwede Mantashe, the minerals resources and energy minister, and that he ignored advice from his chief director of legal services. 

Documents the Mail & Guardian has seen show that against the advice of his chief director of legal services, Pieter Alberts, Mantashe flatly denied an appeal and handed over a manganese mining right to a company owned by Christiaan Arnaldus Victor and Khayalethu Wiseman Gqosha. Several sources have said that Gqosha is close to the minister. 

According to the department’s records, Misty Falls 45 (MF45) was awarded a mining right in 2012. Christiaan Victor was a director at the time and was given the authorisation to act on behalf of the company. But, according to company records, he resigned as a director in 2014. 

In 2018, Christiaan Victor started a new company, Mistyfalls 111 (MF111). One week later, on 21 November 2018, Gqosha was appointed a director. According to a lawyer’s letter written by one of the shareholders of MF45, Sarel Victor, Christiaan Victor and Gqosha then applied to have the mining rights ceded from MF45 to MF111. 

“Our instructions from our client are that the minister of mineral resources and energy [DMRE], Gwede Mantashe (the Minister) has an undisclosed interest in this matter as his wife, Mrs Nolwandle Mantashe (Mrs Mantashe) and Mr Kaya Gqosha (Gqosha), who has presented himself as her nephew, were instrumental in unlawfully attempting to obtain the Mining Right of MF 45 …”

In the letter dated 22 August, the lawyers state that Sarel Victor met Nolwandle Mantashe and Gqosha on several occasions and that he would compile a substantive affidavit setting out the various meetings and interactions. 

Sarel Victor is the son of Christiaan Victor. 

“The affidavit will deal with the unbelievable conduct of the minister in this matter not to follow the clear, logical and correct advice of his chief director of legal services,” read the letter, sent to the Northern Cape regional manager at the minerals regulator for the department of minerals and resources, Ndlelenhle Zindela’s office. 

“He [Sarel Victor] met Mrs Mantashe on 21 June 2019 in Cape Town at a coffee shop in Cavendish Square in Newlands. She made it clear that if the directors of MF45 are obstructive in this process to transfer the mining right to MF111, she would through her husband have MF45’s mining right taken away. Mrs Mantashe said that she would hold 30% of the shareholding in MF111 through Gqosha in a nominated entity called Novel Ore Drilling.”

Nolwandle Mantashe had not responded to questions by the time of publication.

Minister Mantashe denies any relation to Gqosha. He told the M&G that he could not respond to a matter that was before the court. 

“I won’t be dragged into a parallel process. Don’t let them drag you into these issues of the department,” he said. A close ally of Sarel Victor told the M&G that he maintains he met Mrs Mantashe, stating that he had objective proof of the meeting. 

Mantashe has previously been implicated in a multibillion-rand tender for the supply of emergency power. 

He was accused of rigging the bid to ensure that Turkish-owned Karpowership SA would be awarded the contract. 

In an affidavit to the courts last year, the losing bidder, Aldworth Mbalati, the founder and chief executive of DNG Power Holdings, said that a businessman with close ties to Mantashe made contact a month before the department of mineral resources and energy published the bid. 

Amabhungane reported that the businessman allegedly told Mbalati that the tender would soon be released and that the outcome would be predetermined.

Mbalati later received information that a representative from Karpowership SA had approached “a close family member” of Mantashe for an extension of bid deadlines.

As evidence of this claim, Mbalati attached an SMS, which read that the wife of the “main principal” indicated that the requested extension has been under consideration. He alleged that the wife of the main principal was Nolwandle Mantashe.

As for the manganese mine allegations, Mantashe dismissed the appeal of MF45 and upheld that their mining licence be ceded to MF111.

Mantashe’s decision came “despite the chief director of legal services at the DMRE, Mr Pieter Alberts, advising the minister in writing that the cession would be unlawful and that the appeal of MF45 should be upheld”. 

In a memo directed to the minister dated and signed 7 September 2021, Alberts says that Christiaan Victor had no powers to apply for the cession of the right because the board members at the time consisted of a Phemelo Sehunelo and Beverely Baker. 

“The regional manager has been made aware of the position by the board of MF45 as early as 2019 … no transaction involving Kareepan Mining Right should be attended to by the DMRE without Sehunelo and Bakers’ express permission. It follows that the application in terms of section 11 was not authorised by MF45. The appeal should therefore succeed on this basis,” reads his memo to Mantashe. 

Kareepan mining rights permit the mining of manganese and ore in the Kareepan mining area. 

He also adds that MF111 chose not to respond and that they relied on an old affidavit from Christiaan Victor.

Although Alberts offered several reasons why the appeal should succeed, Mantashe chose to reject these. 

Gqosha declined to comment but his answering affidavit states that he, along with his business associate Dumisa Ntsholo, entered into negotiations for a broad-based black economic empowerment partnership in 2017 with Christiaan Victor because he was the 76% majority owner of MF45. 

They established MF111 as a special purpose vehicle. 

Gqosha’s affidavit was filed about two months before Alberts’ memo to Mantashe.

Gqosha states he was only introduced to Sarel Victor and another MF45 shareholder, David Silver, in 2019 when they indicated they had an interest in Kareepan mine. He claims the meeting was facilitated and paid for by Silver and Sarel Victor. 

Gqosha said Silver offered an initial R5-million for Kareepan mine, which would be owned by MF111, and denied that Silver owned shares at MF45. He said the R2 710 335.65 buy out was in place with R300 000 already transferred to MF111.

Silver said in his own affidavit that MF45 and its shareholders had been prejudiced by the unlawful consent of the transfer of Kareepan mining rights, adding that they had been deprived of their interests. 

Silver said the Kareepan mining area was vast and prospecting operations had confirmed that it is rich in ore and manganese. 

South Africa’s Minerals Council 2020 report stated that the manganese industry exports 95.7% of its output, therefore the total sales

statistics are predominately a mirror image of the export sales statistics. 

Statistics South Africa’s preliminary report in 2021 stated that manganese ore was a significant positive contributor to the country’s economy. 

When questions of who owned the rights were put to Christiaan Victor he provided contradictory statements to the M&G, including how he never resigned from MF45, he couldn’t remember when he met Gqosha, and that his cession application was fraudulent. 

He is aware that a case of fraud has been lodged against him with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation. 

His wife, Badette Victor, said lawyers would respond to questions.

The mineral resources and energy department had not responded to questions by the time of publication.

The minister and state capture

The manganese mine allegations could hurt Gwede Mantashe’s campaign to return as the ANC chairperson. He is under scrutiny for his role in the state capture report, which implicated him in corruption at facilities management company Bosasa. 

Mantashe is reviewing the state capture report in which Chief Justice Raymond Zondo recommended that he should be investigated for corruption after he received security installations for no charge from Bosasa. 

These included CCTV cameras and electric fencing valued at about R150 000 at his Gauteng and Eastern Cape homes. These were paid for by Bosasa, owned by the late ANC benefactor, Gavin Watson.

In his 2018 testimony before the commission, Mantashe denied knowledge that Bosasa had been responsible for the installations, saying his ANC security team had dealt with the “procurement”.

He also denied that electric fencing had been installed and disputed the value of the CCTV systems.

Mantashe placed all responsibility on his head of security, Mzonke Nyakaza, who he said was in charge of the general security and made the agreement with Bosasa employee Papa Leshabane.