A series of unused flights during a “mysterious” trip abroad by Mining Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, during which he allegedly escorted a member of the Gupta family to a meeting with an international mining company, may have cost taxpayers nearly R100 000 in possibly fruitless or wasteful expenditure.
According to former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s “State of Capture” report, Zwane travelled to Zurich during November and December 2015, to attend a meeting with Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg.
Rajesh “Tony” Gupta and Saleem Essa, a well-known Gupta associate allegedly attended the meeting.
Flight records included in the report show Zwane was on board a flight from Johannesburg to Dubai on November 29, and arrived in Zurich, Switzerland, the next day.
But Zwane was not on board a flight scheduled for him from Zurich to Dubai on December 2, nor on another flight from Dubai to Delhi, India, booked for December 3. Zwane also missed what would have been his return flight from Delhi to Dubai on December 5. A flight booked for him from Dubai to Johannesburg for December 7 also went unused.
These missed flights cost the South African taxpayer just over R96 000, which, if they could not be “fully explained”, would amount to fruitless and wasteful expenditure, reads the report.
The missed flights also raises questions over the purpose of Zwane’s trip. It is unclear why he would have wanted to fly to Delhi after a meeting Glencore’s CEO. Delhi is situated some 160km from Saharanpur, the Guptas’ hometown in India.
According to the report, it is unclear how Zwane travelled from Zurich to Dubai after the meeting with Glasenberg, though it appears as if he did somehow manage to travel to the UAE.
“The Minister did not complete his travel itinerary and mysteriously ended up in Dubai, without boarding his scheduled flights,” the report says.
Zwane’s role in the Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources’ acquisition of Optimum Coal Holdings has been questioned before. Optimum’s coal mines have secured lucrative coal supply contracts from Eskom.
There has been speculation that Zwane, as mining minister, placed pressure on Glencore to accede to the Guptas’ efforts to buy Optimum from the Swiss mining giant.