No canary in the coal mine
Ramatlhodi took a long time to raise state capture claims. But they do help piece the puzzle together
Better late than never, as the saying goes.
In September 2015, Ngoako Ramatlhodi ceased to be mineral affairs minister in President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet. He was moved to the public service & administration portfolio in a reshuffle that placed Mosebenzi Zwane in charge of the mining portfolio.
Zwane was soon embroiled in a scandal over claims he helped the Gupta family seal their purchase of Optimum Coal from Glencore. There were clearly dodgy dealings going on behind the scenes.
Ramatlhodi, it was commonly held, had been shifted aside to allow the Gupta state capture agenda to express itself more fully in the minerals sector.
Ramatlhodi, still drawing a minister’s salary and privileges in his new portfolio, remained silent. Until now.
In March, he was finally shuffled all the way out of the cabinet door.
A month or so later, he has found his voice, revealing to investigative journalism outfit amaBhungane that the president’s son, Duduzane Zuma, tried to get him to give the Guptas some love.
He was, he says, leaned on to "blackmail" Glencore into giving up Optimum Coal by suspending all its mining licences until it settled a R2bn penalty imposed by Eskom, then under the management of Brian Molefe.
Ramatlhodi appears to have been stirred into belated action following the reappointment of Molefe to his old job at Eskom after a brief and unproductive stint (he was not given Gordhan’s job) as an ANC MP.
"Since I became minister of mineral resources‚ the Guptas tried to have meetings with me. I refused those meetings. I simply told them to bug off," he said in another interview with news channel eNCA.
Eskom has denied it all. Board spokesman Khulani Qoma says that the allegations are "devoid of logic‚ and all fair-minded citizens will find it impossible to believe [them]".
What can’t be denied is that Ramatlhodi has added a piece to the puzzle that seems to fit. Can he complete the picture?