South Africa


Mahlobo and Bongo’s former state security adviser a major shareholder in R218-billion powership deal

To cool down generators and steam turbines, the Turkish powerships extract large volumes of sea water every day before discharging the heated wastewater back into the harbour. A draft assessment report acknowledges that this will kill or disrupt several forms of marine life, but suggests that the damage will only affect a limited zone around the ships. However, no scientific studies or monitoring reports have been produced from other harbours where powerships operate. (Photo: Supplied)

The company of George Mokoena — the former adviser to former security ministers David Mahlobo and Bongani Bongo — holds a significant tranche of shares in the Turkish powership deal that was questioned at Parliament this week.

The adviser to former State Security Ministers David Mahlobo and Bongani Bongo is a major shareholder in the emergency powerships deal, which could cost South Africa R218-billion over 20 years. 

Lawyer George Mokoena holds 20% of Powergroup SA, the BEE partner to the Turkish powership company Karadeniz. The two companies have formed a consortium called Karpowership SA which won the lions’ share of short-term emergency power contracts to stave off the impact of Eskom’s load shedding.

“He advised both Ministers in his career, long before he was involved in Karpowership SA’s response to the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Procurement Programme,” said Karpowership SA spokesperson Asli Surek KH. 

Mahlobo was State Security Minister from 2014 to 2017; and Bongo from 2017 to 2018.  Both were associated with the high period of state capture under former President Jacob Zuma when the State Security Agency was one of the negotiating nodes for the failed nuclear project.

Mahlobo is now Deputy Minister for Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation and Bongo is an ANC MP. 

Mokoena is a lawyer and shareholder in Matlama Resources.     

He uses his role as adviser to the State Security Ministry as a calling card.

George Mokoena. Photo: Lelaka Attorneys website

Tony Carnie revealed the long lobby to get the powerships into South Africa’s harbours here.  His report raised the alarm and saw the environment, forestry and fisheries department yank back a permit which allowed Karpowership SA to bid without a mandatory environmental impact assessment. 

Massive powerships, which look like floating cities, could be moored at three harbours from 2022 for up to 20 years to provide emergency power.  Reports have shown that they are deleterious to marine life, dangerous to the environment and energy experts have questioned whether the liquid national gas fuel they use is a superior or cheaper form of energy.  

Their supporters say it is a relatively cheap, quick and efficient form of emergency power.

Sharp questions were raised in Parliament on April 21 about the powership deal and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy representatives said that while Karpowership SA is a preferred bidder, the government had yet to sign any contracts.   

 Carol Paton reported in March that the CSIR had calculated the powership plan would cost South Africa R10.9-billion/year or R218-billion over 20 years. 

To give a scale of the cost, the arms deal, for example, cost R30-billion (in 1999 Rands). 

Government has a reputation for paying much more for big energy projects than initially planned or budgeted for – the new power stations Kusile and Medupi are not working properly but cost the public purse R300-billion by 2020, parliament heard in 2020.

“Energy does have costs – but load-shedding has a greater cost.  In the past ten years, load-shedding has cost the South African people over R338-billion. The Karpowership SA project is unique in that it can eliminate up to one stage of load shedding in South Africa, and if Eskom operates the contract at full capacity, we can go a long way toward eliminating a second stage of load shedding. This will be at much lower CO2 emissions than the peaking diesel generates. These are currently used to address load shedding in South Africa,” said Surek KH in a statement. 

Fifteen environmental organisations wrote to Parliament this week to request public hearings into the powership deal because of serious concerns about the impact on the environment. 

“Karpowership is committed to environmental protection at all costs, and we are fully compliant with South African environmental regulations and, in many instances, well below regulation limits. To even submit a bid, all bidders had to meet extremely high bars of requirements ranging from technology, price, environmental and economic development commitments,” said Surek KH. DM

Absa OBP

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 32

  • I’ve said it before. This is BS. Just another chance to rob the fiscus AND destroy the environment at the same time. I thought this was an April fool joke but sadly it’s just another brazen attempt for the connected to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpaying citizens of SA.

  • The tender is not compliant with the PFMA on technical grounds. Irrational expenditure.
    The departure point of the tender is that the grid be balanced at source instead of at system level. Technically insane.
    The result… emergency power from these ships for 20 years instead of 5.
    It stinks.

  • How convenient for Mr Mokoena. And (claps hands) just what we need: floating saunas in our seas.
    Someone, please stop the madness

  • Rob Carney, my Irish-Afrikaner grandfather, had a simple rule-of-thumb when it came to government: “If government’s for it, I’m against”. Sadly, that should be the first response to each and every initiative of the ANC led government. It can not be trusted with ANYTHING.

  • And solar and wind have in the past year also dropped load shedding by a stage. If we have both in great amounts a large amount of load shedding will be mitigated at a fraction of the cost

  • Chris Yelland calculated already about 1 or 1.5 years back that Medupi and Kusile had costed or at least would cost on completion: R 460 B, not the R 300 B that Eskom stated last year. From the initially budgeted R 170 B. Total economic and environmental disasters.

    • 4 sure , just to break even on running costs need to 2x the price . EU funding gone! Compliancy will be billions, no empathy for the choking masses .

  • And the South African public will do what while the connected elite continue? Simply nothing, except confirm the ANC again. This is the same as Zimbabwe – just on a grander scale.

    • Jonathan : make this the most arduous public participation process in the history of EIA’s.

      I am sure DM readers include some environmental consultants that can give us all pointers to overwhelm that process. Suffocation by a million emails – they have to deal with each 😉

  • If only they could figure out a way to steal money from a large renewable project, at least that would be better for the environment.
    And in other news, the ANC does well in local elections…..the turkeys keep voting for Christmas.

  • So the middleman walks away with R-billions for adding a black skin to a Turkish product? How is this not fronting? SA has well and truly lost the plot.

    • No Anton. That is not fronting, that is real anc EE and AA in action. See the words uttered by smuts ngonyama as quoted by Ann Bown yesterday.

  • Given that this 20 year deal (or is it steal?) has not been finalised and sealed, I hope responsible agencies will at least review the period drastically downwards, with options to extend if or as required. Hope that skulduggery can be minimised in the process with careful & independent oversight.

  • This is just another Arms deal, Transnet deal, Eskom deal, etc. The cadres seem desperate to secure their long term futures. My guess is that Eskom won’t be around to see this deal through. In any event we won’t be able to afford their product if they are still around.

  • Mokoena, 20% shareholder, former advisor to Mahlobo and Bongo (recently acquitted by Hlophe). Tiego Moseneke (Justice Moseneke’s brother), previously struck off attorneys’ roll now in line for Powership CEO (DM 31/03/21). All now awaiting Mantashe’s approval. The word would appear to be ANC/cabal.

  • The corruption train is steaming ahead – it is just unbelievable. These ANC cadres have no shame and no intention of caring about the environment which is also why they don’t care about poaching.

  • If this guy was a former advisor to clean former ministers, OK.

    I figure we all file everything and every question we can at every stage of the EIA public participations. People doing business with government must learn there is a HUGE friction attached to who they pick as their partners.

  • Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted