Duduzane’s role as Russia fixer emerges

The first evidence has emerged of Duduzane Zuma’s role as a middleman between his father and international entities‚ with leaked e-mails showing he brokered a meeting between President Jacob Zuma and a private Russian investment company.

According to leaked e-mails seen by Business Day‚ Russian investment company Sistema Joint Stock Financial Corporation contacted Duduzane on December 23 2014‚ requesting assistance in setting up a meeting between company chairman Vladimir Evtushenkov and Zuma in Davos‚ Switzerland.

They said Evtushenkov would be in Davos on January 21 and 22‚ during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. Zuma was expected to be in Davos at the time.

There has long been speculation about Duduzane’s role in providing access to Zuma and in the influence he wields over his father’s decision-making.

Constitutional experts say there is no problem with the president meeting business people‚ but if Duduzane benefits from the meetings, it could be a conflict of interest.

Neither Duduzane nor the Presidency responded to requests for comment.

According to the e-mails‚ Duduzane wrote to the Russians on January 1‚ informing Sistema managing director Evgeniy Chuikov that he was in India and would be heading to the US‚ but would “follow up with the matter in discussion” when he returned.

On January 27 2015‚ Chuikov sent Duduzane an e-mail, thanking him for setting up a meeting between Evtushenkov and Zuma. “We met in Davos and had a very productive and warm catch-up‚” he wrote.

Chuikov proceeds to give Duduzane a rundown of what was discussed‚ which included possible investment in SA, particularly in healthcare and “smart city” technologies.

He said Zuma expressed his support for Sistema’s efforts and mentioned that both areas of focus “may be of interest to SA”.

“On smart city‚ President Zuma suggested we approach large municipalities in SA such as Pretoria and possibly SA’s security ministry/service which these technologies are closely linked to‚” Chuikov wrote.

“On healthcare‚ we discussed opportunities to partner with local South African healthcare operators both in SA and in Russia.”

He said Zuma supported the idea on healthcare and suggested introductions with key South African healthcare providers.

It is not clear if Sistema has any investment interests in SA. The company did not respond to e-mailed questions.

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) executive secretary Lawson Naidoo said that if Duduzane benefited from the meetings with Zuma‚ he would be in contravention of Section 96 (2) of the Constitution.

The section states that no member of the Cabinet or deputy minister may act in anyway that is inconsistent with their office or expose themselves to any situation that might lead to conflict between their official responsibilities and private interests.

“Some of it could be legitimate because lots of companies and businesses legitimately go and speak to the president and often those meetings are set up by middlemen‚” Naidoo said.

“But if there is a situation where the president’s son stands to benefit as a result of those initiatives, then that would constitute a conflict of interest.”

“But if there is a situation where the president’s son stands to benefit as a result of those initiatives, then that would constitute a conflict of interest.”

According to the e-mail‚ during the meeting between Evtushenkov and Zuma, it was agreed that Sistema would plan a visit to SA in March 2015.

“He [Zuma] suggested I keep in touch with you to develop the above ideas and agenda in more detail ahead of our possible visit‚” Chuikov wrote to Duduzane.

The next correspondence in the leaked e-mails between the two men was in June 2015‚ when Chuikov informed Duduzane that Sistema would be travelling to SA and asked for a meeting to be arranged.

Duduzane and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta travelled to Moscow‚ Russia, in November 2015.

This was not the first time Duduzane had been to Russia. In another e-mail dated August 22 2014‚ an official in the Presidency sent Duduzane a copy of his visa for Russia.

GENEVIEVE QUINTAL

Leave a Reply