Tuesday, May 22, 2007

From Liberator To Exploiter- Comrade Capitalist

Mosima Gabriel ("Tokyo") Sexwale - former South African liberation fighter turned business tycoon . He was recruited to the ANC underground by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the early 1970s, went for military training in the former Soviet Union and was infiltrated back into the country in the aftermath of the Soweto youth uprising in June 1976. Sexwale inflicted the first injuries on government forces when he threw a hand grenade at police while entering South Africa from Swaziland. He was caught, went on trial . He was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment and dispatched to join Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners on Robben Island.

Released from prison in 1990, he rose to prominence in the ANC, becoming chairman of the party in Gauteng province and then in 1994 , the first premier of Gauteng.

A newspaper last year listed his investments as worth R978 million (U.S.$143 million), but informal estimates place it at as much as R6 billion. Sexwale founded Mvelaphanda Holdings , a company of which he is still executive chairman. Mvelaphanda is primarily focused on the mining, energy and related sectors. Some of Sexwale's main interests are oil and diamond mining, for which he has been granted concessions across Africa and Russia; these interests are controlled by a subsidiary of Mvelaphanda Holdings called Mvelaphanda Resources, of which he is chairman. Sexwale holds positions in many international organizations, such as President of the South African/Russian Business, Technological and Cultural Association and Vice President of the South African/Japanese Business Forum. He is also an Honorary Consul General of Finland in South Africa.

How was his cash made ?- Black Economic Empowerment (BEE)

Designed to put more of the economy in black hands, in part by forcing the country's largest industries to set targets for training more black workers, promoting more black managers, using more black-owned suppliers and--this is where the controversy comes in--selling ownership stakes to black capitalists. Big firms that want to do business with the state must now file a BEE scorecard to prove they are promoting "previously disadvantaged individuals," including blacks, mixed-race "coloreds" and Indians. Since government spending is some $20 billion a year, or about 20% of GDP, it's a deal not many companies can afford to pass up.
A handful of prominent and well-connected black South Africans--Macozoma, Motsepe, Ramaphosa and Sexwale among them--recognized the opportunity that presented. As South Africa's biggest companies rushed to meet their BEE requirements, they often turned to the same small group of black capitalists, offering to sell or grant equity stakes at favorable terms, often financed by the companies themselves, in return for connections, expertise and links to the black marketplace.

“You need to be palatable and acceptable to your white business, because white business still holds the purse strings, and Tokyo Sexwale is extremely palatable,” says Alec Hogg, South Africa's leading financial analyst and broadcaster.“I think he found the right people to back him. He found one of the leading banks in South Africa, which has virtually given him an open checkbook. And as a consequence of that, he's been able to put together a number of deals - many, many deals in many different areas of the economy.”

Tsediso Phofu, another political prisoner on Robben Island, who was in the same cellblock as Sexwale , founded a school for the mentally disabled, but still makes less than $500 a month, and lives in this one-room apartment with his wife and daughter. He says Black Empowerment hasn't benefited him one bit.

“I feel I've been abandoned. I feel somehow you even regret that what it is that we fought for. Why were you fighting the struggle, for the nation, or for certain individuals to be rich? Meanwhile, you remain in poverty,” says Phofu .

Now Tokyo Sexwale is lobbying for the leadership of the ANC and effectively the presidency of South Africa .

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