Sunday, August 24, 2008

PetroSA in oil deal with Mugabe cronies

Say it with a sting.....

Wisani Wa Ka Ngobeni
Published:Aug 24, 2008

Parastatal PetroSA is dishing out oil deals to a consortium that includes foreign businessmen who have been fingered by the United Nations (UN) as fronts for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe

Thamer Al Shanfari and his associates in the now defunct Oryx Natural Resources are founding shareholders of the local company, Middle East South Africa Energy (Mesa).

But it has now emerged that the UN has accused Oryx Natural Resources of plundering in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and diverting the proceeds to the Zimbabwe Defence Force (ZDF) and to Mugabe.

In addition, the US government last month issued an executive order banning its nationals or companies from doing business with Oryx or Al Shanfari — a listing the London-based businessman intends challenging.

Announcing the ban, US president George W Bush ordered that assets of the individuals and entities identified as fronting for Mugabe that are within US jurisdiction be frozen. “Additionally, US persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the individual or entities,” he said.

Thabo Mabaso, spokesman for PetroSA, on Friday confirmed that the state oil company was doing business with Mesa, but said PetroSA was not aware of the allegations of fronting for Mugabe against anyone involved with the company.

He said Mesa has been registered as a vendor with PetroSA and that it had been awarded a contract for an 8-million deal in January this year.

Before this Mesa had landed a R1.2- billion deal from PetroSA. Mesa had scooped a contract to supply PetroSA with 30000 tons of oil condensate a month over two years.

The deal ended in 2006.

Al Shanfari and his associates hold their stake in Mesa through a Mauritius-based company, Pegasus. They initially held 49% of Mesa, along with South African companies Kovacs Investments (20%), Lithemba Investments (10%) and Chomulunga African (21%). Chomulunga has since withdrawn from Mesa.

Mesa’s chief executive Bongani Raziya confirmed that Pegasus owned a stake in Mesa. However, he said he was not aware of its partners’ alleged activities in the DRC.

Raziya said his company has nothing to do with Mugabe or his regime. “I know that Pegasus was supplying oil in the DRC,” he said.

Al Shanfari — through his London-based lawyers, The Khan Partnership — on Friday said he had resigned from Oryx in December 2002 and “have not been to Zimbabwe since then”.

He added: “I have no wish to be associated with those who support the Mugabe regime.” He said his inclusion on the US list of entities and people associated with Mugabe had damaged his reputation. He added that his lawyers were applying to have his name cleared, and that this included court action. All individuals or companies mentioned in the US order were given 30 days to show why they should not be listed.

Meanwhile, it has been established that Al Shanfari’s business associates in Oryx included former Emir of Qatar Sheikh Khalifa and Issa Al Kawari, the former Information Minister of Qatar. Al Shanfari is now embroiled in a bitter row with Khalifa and Al Kawari over his 30% shareholding in Pegasus.

Other Shareholders in Oryx are Kamal Khalfan, who is the honorary consul of the Sultanate of Oman in Zimbabwe.

Neither of these three businessmen are listed in the US executive order.

However, Khalfan, who maintains a close relationship with Mugabe, only last month facilitated the donation of Z1-trillion to a charitable trust belonging to Mugabe’s wife, Grace.

Khalfan chairs the richest horse racing event in Zimbabwe, the Republic Cup, of which Mugabe is the patron. According to recent reports in the Zimbabwean government-owned newspaper, the Herald, the Republic Cup Trust last month also donated money to another unnamed trust nominated by Mugabe.

In 2002 the UN reported that the DRC’s then president, Laurent Kabila, granted Zimbabwe a 2-billion diamond concession in the DRC to compensate it for having provided military support.

Sunday Times

comments by Sonny

Another Petrogate.... "very sensitive issue indeed!"



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