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South African Finance Minister Orders Probe Into Eskom Coal Supply Deal

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(Credit: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images) Pravin Gordhan, South Africa's finance minister, reacts as he attends a panel session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 46th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos from Jan. 20 - 23.Opening Day Of The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2016
February 23
6:18 AM 2016

Pravin Gordhan, the finance minister of South Africa, is going to ask National Treasury to scrutinize coal supply contracts awarded by Eskom, including those held by Guptas. Pravin has also cancelled Gupta owned New Age newspaper's post budget breakfast briefing.

Eskom is developing two coal fired power plants and a hydro-power complex with renewable energy plants to help reduce rolling power cuts. The state owned power producer is implementing the projects amid country's inadequate power generation capacity, reports Bloomberg.

The move has been analyzed as bucking trend of cabinet ministers bowing to the Gupta family's demands. It also highlights a growing revolt within the ruling party against Gupta family's influence over President Jacob Zuma.

The New Age breakfasts appear as regular money-spinner for the newspaper. The breakfasts are often attended by government ministers, heads of state owned enterprises and South African President himself, according to a report published in Business Tech.

Though Eskom power probe covers a wide range of aspects, but Guptas are believed to be the prime target of the investigation. Gordhan will attend the breakfast briefing subject to proven innocence of the Gupta owned newspaper from corruption, reports Sunday Times quoting a Gordhan office's statement addressed to SABC.

New Age breakfast briefings have earned millions of rands from sponsorship of state owned entities. Telkom and Transent have reportedly paid at least 1 million ZAR to sponsor the events. Moreover, in 2013, Nomvula Mokonyane, the then premier of Gauteng has allegedly paid 700,000 ZAR to speak at one of its events. The alleged transaction has caused huge uproar at that time.

Gordhan has denied commenting on his New Age breakfast decision expressing no concern over who would broadcast his post-budget briefing. Following his denial, for the first time, the post budget breakfast briefing will be broadcast on e.tv and eNCA, confirms Phumza Macanda, spokeswoman for the finance minister.

Treasury has been believed to offer the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) with a precondition for not linking The New Age with the briefing. The move has allegedly angered SABC Chief Operating Officer (COO), Hlaudi Motsoeneng. He has requested for a meeting with Gordhan and treasury director general Lungisa Fuzile.

Gupta family has acknowledged receipt of a very polite message from Gordhan's office explaining treasury policy that suggests shared access to the minister. Gupta's monopoly on post budget breakfast briefings has attracted controversy three years back when Gordhan offered the event to the Cape Chamber of Commerce. However, SABC has refused to broadcast the event without involving the New Age news paper.

Post budget breakfast briefing has become a patented earning machine for New Age news paper, owned by Gupta family. This year, country's finance minister has cancelled the schedule and orders for probe into Eskom Coal Supply deals which also relates Guptas. The finance minister's decision has been analyzed as a revolt within the government against president's close ally Gupta family.

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