OUTA lays treason charges against Richard Seleke
Seleke was the cut-out who passed confidential emails from Eskom to the Guptas, inserted himself into state-owned entities’ deals and helped his friends the Guptas use confidential information to buy a cheap mine and rip off billions of rand from South Africa.
He tried to cover his tracks with an anonymous email address but failed.
“This is an official who belongs not in public office but in jail,” says OUTA Chief Operations Officer Ben Theron. “The fact that he is still in office despite what is now publicly known about his activities points to a compliant state that is run from Saxonwold. Why isn’t the National Prosecuting Authority taking action against officials like this?”
In line with its mandate to hold to account those who abuse their authority on state expenditure, this case is one of a few charges laid against public officials by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) and more are to follow.
By all accounts, 2015 was a busy and lucrative year for Seleke. He served on the Transnet board from November 2014 until November 2015, chairing the risk committee and serving on the acquisitions and disposals committee. At the same time he was the director general of the Free State’s Department of Economic Affairs.
Unofficially, he was the go-between who helped the Guptas manipulate massive pay-offs from Transnet and Eskom deals.
In March 2015, Seleke emailed Ashu Chawla, the CE of the Guptas’ Sahara Computers, sending him a spreadsheet showing how the Gupta empire would be paid hundreds of millions of US dollars for brokering Transnet’s locomotive deal with China South Railways. “There is no conceivable basis upon which Seleke might lawfully have been involved in email correspondence of this nature,” says Theron in the affidavit.
Furthermore, in 2015 Seleke received confidential Eskom information from Koko Matshela, then Eskom executive for technical and commercial, and passed it on to the Guptas via Chawla and Tony Gupta. This helped the Guptas purchase the embattled Optimum coal mine from Glencore, by giving them information they could use to manipulate the deal.
In June 2015, Seleke emailed his CV to Duduzane Zuma – he used that anonymous email to send “my CV” and signed it from “Richard” thus blowing his own cover – and by November he was appointed director general of the national Department of Public Enterprises by Duduzane’s father, President Jacob Zuma.
Still using his “anonymous” email, Seleke passed on information about Denel.
In March 2017, he passed on to Tony Gupta a spreadsheet analysing trends in the rand exchange rate and balance of payments. “The most likely purpose behind the production of this spreadsheet was an attempt to influence public debate over merits of retaining Minister (Pravin) Gordhan in office as Finance Minister,” says Theron in his affidavit. By the end of that month, Gordhan was fired.
“Public Enterprises is important to the Guptas because of their interest in contracts with state-owned enterprises. Against the backdrop of Seleke’s sustained improper relationship with the Guptas, it is difficult to find an innocent explanation for the President’s appointment of him to the position of director general of Public Enterprises,” says Theron, adding that Zuma appeared to be using his powers to promote and protect the Guptas and his son Duduzane, showing the improper relationship between the President and the Guptas.