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New probe into Oilgate

The Oilgate saga is under scrutiny again, with key players likely to be called to provide details in a new probe.

“We are back on the case, although we haven’t fully reopened the investigation,” said Public Protector Thuli Mandonsela yesterday. “We decided on a review process.”

The Oilgate scandal broke in 2003 after the state-owned oil company PetroSA gave businessman and ANC backer Sandi Majali an advance of R15m, to be used by his company, Imvume Consortium, to pay for an assignment of oil from Iraq.

Majali, however, used R11m of the money to fund the ANC’s election campaign. He was found dead in his Sandton hotel room last year.

The public protector is now likely to summon key players in the Oilgate saga, including former PetroSA chief executive Sipho Mkhize and former ANC treasurer-general Mendi Msimang among others, to provide details in her new probe.

Madonsela told The New Age yesterday that she has placed time frames for her “review panel” for the Oilgate investigation. She said she wanted to find “gaps” that could have been missed by her predecessor, Lawrence Mushwana.

She said her review of the Oilgate investigation would focus on the questionable relationship Majali had with the ANC.

Madonsela said she would review “documentary” evidence related to the R11m paid by Majali to the ANC in 2004 before taking a decision about who to interview.

She was also interested in the letter published by the Sunday Times yesterday, purportedly written to the ANC by Majali just weeks before his death, in which the controversial businessman denied that the money was repaid to him by the ANC.

Majali’s letter is contrary to the assertion by Msimang in 2007, who said that the ANC had repaid the donation in full.

“If we are beginning to make adverse findings on parties, it would be a must that we give those people an opportunity to respond,” said Madonsela.

“Should the picture change it would be compulsory that we talk to that party.”

The public protector said that she had “identified some of the outstanding issues around the circumstances under which the advance was given (to the ANC) and we’ll look at the information that previously said that we could not follow the money beyond state parameters”.

Madonsela was referring to Mushwana’s report, which was largely criticised for having whitewashed the probe. In that report Mushwana said that he could not deal with funds that had been transferred from state-owned PetroSA to the ANC, because the party was not a public entity.

Unlike Mushwana, Madonsela said she would “look at how the money got to be no longer available for the purchase of the oil.

“We are going to start with documentary review but should we need to reinterview people, the former CEO of PetroSA is still alive, the former chairperson of PetroSA is also alive, and certainly the treasurer-general of the ANC (Msimang),” said Madonsela.

She would also “deal with the relationship between Majali and the ANC, given the fact that his company, Imvume, was going to be the go-between in the dealings between PetroSA and the Iraqis”.

Madonsela began the review process after she lost the Supreme Court of Appeal case brought by the Mail & Guardian newspaper to have the investigation reopened.

She said the newspaper would assist her with more information about the case, and that she has already drawn up a “case plan” for her investigation.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the party had yet to see Majali’s letter, apparently addressed to him and President Jacob Zuma.

DA leader Helen Zille urged Madonsela to open a full investigation, and also probe whether President Jacob Zuma had received Majali’s letter.