While most of the state-owned entities are mired in debt, the Central Energy Fund (CEF) is sitting on R17bn of cash. That cash, it seems, is burning a hole in several pockets.  Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe wants to use it to buy a mine. Energy minister Jeff Radebe wants to buy an oil refinery. Officials in the CEF and its subsidiaries are looking at “downstream opportunities”, which include Engen, owned by Malaysian state oil company Petronas (which they have tried to buy before and failed) and other assets of the oil majors that might come on sale. It appears past experiences, which have left several state-owned companies in debt and shunned by lenders, have not dampened the government’s enthusiasm for commercial adventurism. The CEF is a holding company with several subsidiaries, including the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF), PetroSA, the African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation (AEMFC), iGas and the Petroleum Agency of SA. Most of the CEF’s cash sits in the SFF...

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