Press Release: Calls for urgent action around contracts for the sale of South Africa’s strategic crude oil reserves

The Helen Suzman Foundation calls for urgent action by the police and prosecuting authorities following a High Court judgment which set aside contracts for the sale of South Africa’s strategic crude oil reserves.

In its judgment of 20 November 2020, the Western Cape High Court declared invalid certain contracts relating to the sale by the Strategic Fuel Fund (“SFF”) of 10 million barrels of oil, representing South Africa’s strategic crude oil reserves, for an amount of USD281 million (approximately R4 billion, at the then prevailing exchange rate). These transactions took place at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016.  Relevant decisions by the then Minister of Energy, Ms Tina Joemat-Petterson (currently an ANC Member of Parliament and Chairperson of the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Police), were also declared invalid and set aside.

In respect of the then acting Chief Executive Officer of the SFF, Mr Sibusiso Gamede, the judgment states “that Gamede was not genuinely concerned with the best interests of the SFF and the country.  His motives were improper”.   The Court found that certain payments made to him can, on the papers before the Court, be found to have been bribes.  In addition, it found that it “is clear beyond doubt” that certain invoices issued by him in connection with the transactions are “bogus”.

The judgment also refers to failures of oversight by the board of the SFF, the Central Energy Fund and the then Minister of Energy.  The Court also stated that Minister Joemat-Petterson did not apply her mind to certain crucial issues.

It is evident that this case represents not only a fundamental failure of oversight by the boards of government-controlled entities and the responsible Minister, but also a major criminal enterprise.  The Helen Suzman Foundation therefore calls upon the South African Police Service (in particular, the Hawks) and the National Prosecuting Authority to investigate this case on an urgent basis, with a view to bringing appropriate criminal charges.

Anton van Dalsen
082 888 0500