- The Black Business Federation has hit back at Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s claims that Eskom procurement has been infiltrated with people close to the KZN construction mafia.
- The BBF was founded out of a group that invaded construction site and demanded local participation.
- It wants Ramokgopa to retract his comment.
- For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.
The Black Business Federation (BBF) says it is not involved in fraud at Eskom and accuses Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa of implying that it might be.
After invading KwaZulu-Natal construction projects and demanding to participate in projects for years, Durban-based Federation for Radical Economic Transformation (FRET) has rebranded itself as a legitimate black business lobby group, the BBF.
The BBF has established itself as a legal presence and seeks to facilitate sub-contracting for black businesses and business forums in a range of sectors. It describes itself as an organisation “committed to radical economic transformation in the ambit of the country’s laws”.
In an interview with News24 last week, Ramokgopa said that organised crime had infiltrated Eskom’s procurement divisions and that intelligence showed that they had links to the “construction mafia” in KwaZulu-Natal.
In a statement on Wednesday, the BBF said:
As an organisation that has been labelled as the so-called KZN construction mafia, BBF rejects these aspersions cast by the Minister with disgust and demands an immediate retraction. We believe that if Dr Ramokgopa can make such bold statements on a public platform then he can surely confidently back them with evidence in the form of names of all those he has accused of this corruption so that the law can take its course.
The BBF said it was strange that after all the investigations and misconduct at Eskom, this was the first time that the KZN mafia had been named. The group wants him to withdraw his comment.
“The Minister should caution himself against trying to pin his own failures and the failures of the government that deployed him on others. Instead of pointing fingers and embarking on pointless media excursions at the taxpayers’ expense, Minister Ramokgopa should rather focus on what the country expects of him; providing solutions to the crippling load shedding that has negatively affected small businesses across the country,” it said.
Ramokgopa did not say or imply that the BBF was the group he referred to. Following the great success of FRET and that of a competing group Delangkubona, “construction mafias” and business forums mushroomed all over the country, with all provinces now experiencing disruptions to construction projects by multiple groupings.
Ramokgopa had initially downplayed the impact of crime and corruption on operations at Eskom, trying to make the point when he first came into office in March that it was mechanical issues and lack of investment that were the primary causes of the failure of Eskom power stations.
But in an interview with News24 last week, Ramokgopa said that his comments on Eskom’s mechanical failings should be seen in the context of his exploratory visit to power stations.
He said that crime and corruption at Eskom were at the heart of its problems.
“The long and short of it is that it is comprehensive. They can see the runners and are starting to connect them to the ringleaders… and they are finding that some of them are linked to the construction mafia, the guys who are stopping construction projects and the trucking industry, which blocked the N3. So it’s an ecosystem. It is not isolated people. They have found [extortion] to be very lucrative, and so they have expanded into other spaces.”