NATIONAL NEWS - Here’s what caught our attention on Wednesday:
Zuma testifies: Day three
Former president Jacob Zuma is back to take the hot seat in his third appearance at the state capture inquiry on Wednesday.
During his testimony on Tuesday, Zuma’s opening remarks alluded to death threats that he and his family received on Monday night, the day of his first appearance at the Zondo commission – which deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo deemed as ‘unacceptable’.
Zuma also maintained his innocence and denied having knowledge of the Gupta’s allegedly offering a ministerial position to Vytjie Mentor, who testified at the inquiry earlier this year. Zuma also cannot recall giving instruction to remove former head of the GCIS, Themba Maseko from his post, allegedly because he refused to direct state advertising money to the Gupta’s media company in 2011.
PIC’s exposure to Steinhoff
The inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation continued on Monday, with representatives from the Government Employees Pension Fund testifying and the former CEO of the PIC, Dan Matjila taking the stand. On Tuesday, Matjila told the inquiry that, due to governance concerns, the PIC increased its investment in Steinhoff in 2016, which subsequently enabled it (the PIC) to have representation on the Steinhoff board.
Moneyweb is reporting that the PIC extended a R9.35 billion loan to special purpose vehicle Lancaster 101 to a buy a 2.75% empowerment stake in Steinhoff. The deal was proposed to the PIC by Jayendra Naidoo.
Gautrain plans expansion
The Gautrain Management Agency is in talks with various UK-based companies to acquire additional second-hand rolling stock, worth R2 billion to expand the Gautrain’s capacity. Moneyweb is reporting that Gautrain is seeking to bring in between 18 and 35 coaches to South Africa within the next 18 months.
Additionally, Gautrain plans to add 150km of railway line and another 19 stations to its network, in the next phase of the Gautrain project. This, it says, is a strategic infrastructure project in the National Development Plan.
Funding for the rolling stock has been secured from the Development Bank of South Africa.
Retail sales figures
South Africa’s retail sales figures for May are expected to be released on Wednesday. In April, retail sales increased by 2.4% year-on-year, following a downwardly revised 0.1% gain in March. Sales increased for pharmaceuticals and medical goods, cosmetics and toiletries, textiles, clothing, footwear & leather goods, household furniture, appliances & equipment and all other retailers, while sales for food, beverages and tobacco showed no growth, data from Trading Economics shows.
BHP Group operational review
The BHP Group, which specialises in mining metals, issued an operational review for the year ended June 30, 2019, on Wednesday. The company is reporting an 11% increase in quarterly production, which it says was driven by strong operational performance across its portfolios.
CEO Andrew Mackenzie says the company’s overall production was in line with that of 2018, overcoming the impacts of ‘weather, grade and natural field decline and unplanned outages’ during the first half of the year. On a quarterly basis, petroleum production increased by 3%, copper by 6%, iron ore by 12% and metallurgical coal by 20%. Energy coal production and nickel also increased by 10% and 49%, respectively.