Jump to navigation

Published 23rd February 2001

Vol 42 No 4


South Africa

Not so slick

A probe into a secret trading oil trading deal costing the country millions of dollars is threatening some powerful interests

In what is becoming a test-case for President Thabo Mbeki's government's ability to investigate corruption allegations, a major international oil trading company faces claims that it connived with its business partners in South Africa to bribe local civil servants in a secret deal that lost the country more than US$3 million. Trafigura, a London-based oil and metals trading company, is embroiled in the first major kick-back scandal to hit South Africa since 1994. The company's joint-venture operation in South Africa, High Beam Trading International, is at the centre of an investigation into the alleged payment of $60,000 in cash to officials at the state oil company, the Central Energy Fund, in exchange for a lucrative oil trading contract. Trafigura robustly denies wrongdoing and senior executive Graham Sharpe insists the South African contract is 'still valid'. South African state oil officials, whom investigators claim were also promised a further $2 mn. offshore, signed a confidential deal with Trafigura and High Beam in May 2000. The contract was signed without the knowledge of the Ministry of Minerals and Energy - which by law should have sanctioned the deal - and was sealed without an open tender. It effectively gave Trafigura/High Beam control over South Africa's strategic oil stock. The two companies stood to make US$20 million on the deal over fifteen months, investigators said. Yet Trafigura and High Beam Trading International insist that the deal did not break any existing rules.


Wrong number, again

South Africa's hopes of reviving the sale of nearly 10 billion Rand (US$1.4 bn.) of G6 artillery pieces to Saudi Arabia seem to have been scuppered by the 16 February bombardment o...


Hope springs eternal

Young President Kabila has done more than expected for peace

Just when there are glimmerings of hope for an end to the war, new questions have arisen about Western commitment to backing African peace-brokering in the region. Hopes rest first...


Winter in Asmara

President Issayas is freezing some of his key officials out of politics

For the first time in his political life, President Issayas Aferworki faces serious challenges from his political peers. There is now a substantial group within the ruling People's...


Gim-Gema in Ethiopia

Ethiopia, like Eritrea, is conducting a post-war reassessment (gim-gema), covering the decade since the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took power. When i...


Revolution revisited

Zanzibar's old passions have upset a nation proud of peace

Oh dear! The media had exaggerated reports of Zanzibar's troubles, some foreign embassies were biased in favour of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), foreign election observe...



Pointers

Peace budget

Britain's Labour government, whose proclaimed ethical foreign policy has been under fire since the Sandline affair in Sierra Leone (AC Vol 39 No 5), wants to show it takes Africa s...


Back to gaol

The arrest of the National Islamic Front government's founding father, Hassan el Turabi, on 21 February sent ripples of glee through Sudanese communities: the previous two times he...