Top5 on Fin24: Zuma agrees to SARS inquiry and ex-Eskom exec talks about ‘culture of fear’

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Cape Town – Tuesday’s top economic and finance reads.

Gigaba: Zuma agrees to set up SARS inquiry

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has asked President Jacob Zuma to set up an urgent judicial inquiry into tax administration and governance at the SA Revenue Service. 

Gigaba, speaking after a media briefing about plans for South African Airways, said Zuma had agreed to the inquiry.

He said the probe would be established “soon” and added he would in due course announce which judge would preside over the process. 

The finance minister denied the establishment of the inquiry was related to any of the explosive claims about SARS made in journalist Jacques Pauw’s recent book The President’s Keepers.

READ: Zuma agrees to set up SARS inquiry – Gigaba

#StateCapture: Eskom has a culture of fear – former Eskom executive

Eskom’s former Group Executive of Enterprise Development Erica Johnson told Parliament on Tuesday that a “culture of fear” had taken shape during her last months at the power utility.

Johnson was giving testimony during Parliament’s ongoing state capture inquiry, which is being conducted by the public enterprises oversight committee. She told ANC MP and former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan that the culture of fear had only intensified after she had left.

Johnson said a number of incidents struck fear into Eskom employees. When the head of energy was suspended, she became concerned. “He was a hardworking person, and after a dispute of a certain conversation, he was suspended,” she said.

Follow the inquiry’s progress as it happened with updates from our reporter on site. 

READ: As it happened – #StateCapture: Eskom has a culture of fear – former Eskom executive

FirstRand takes on Britain’s biggest banks with R20bn takeover

Africa’s largest lender by market value plans to take on Britain’s biggest banks with the takeover of Aldermore Group as growth in its home market stutters.

FirstRand said on Monday it agreed to buy all of Aldermore after winning the backing of the U.K. lender’s board and its largest shareholder.

The offer, which values Aldermore at about £1.1bn, will help the Johannesburg-based company diversify away from South Africa, which accounts for about 96% of earnings and where economic growth is slowing to near levels last seen in the 2009 recession.

“There’s plenty of opportunity for a challenger bank to go and keep giving it to the big banks,” Aldermore Chief Executive Officer  Phillip Monks said by phone.

READ: FirstRand takes on Britain’s biggest banks with R20bn takeover

SAA still searching for equity partner

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday that cash-strapped South African Airways was still searching for a strategic equity partner.

“SAA needs a new fleet, this money won’t come from the fiscus and it won’t come from the [airline] revenues”, Gigaba said

He was speaking at a press briefing at SAA’s head office in Kempton Park following a meeting with the new board and executive team.

Discussions are, however, still at an early stage and government – as SAA’s sole shareholder – will decide what percentage the equity partner will take. “Many have shown interest. They range from airlines to financial institutions to other investors,” Gigaba said.

READ: SAA still searching for equity partner

SA shows why collaboration is key to tackling global crime networks – Lord Hain

Lord Peter Hain tabled a series of allegations in the UK’s House of Lords relating to the possible role of British banks in alleged money laundering and illicit financial transactions centred around South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family.

The Conversation Africa’s Charles Leonard asked him to explain why he took the step.

Hain, who was a vocal anti-apartheid activist, was born in South Africa but grew up in the UK. He is a visiting adjunct professor at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Business School.

READ: SA shows why collaboration is key to tackling global crime networks

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