Our Burning Planet


Unwrapping the financial interests of ministers: A R50,000 portrait of Gwede Mantashe and a stack of books for Barbara Creecy

Unwrapping the financial interests of ministers: A R50,000 portrait of Gwede Mantashe and a stack of books for Barbara Creecy
From left: Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe. From stacks of books, to chocolates, perfumes, laptops and even a lamp from Karpowership SA, the ministers involved in South Africa’s environment, energy and conservation legislation have declared a peculiar array of gifts they received over the year worth anything from R200 to R50,000. (Photos: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Masi Losi | Ruvan Boshoff | Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but did you know that a portrait of Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe is worth R50,000?

A portrait of Gwede Mantashe, a stack of reading books for Barbara Creecy and a small desk display from Karpowership SA for Pravin Gordhan are among an array of gifts recently declared by Cabinet ministers.

After last week’s release of Parliament’s 2023 Register of Members’ Interests by the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests, Daily Maverick “unwrapped” some of the gifts and financial interests our ministers declared – particularly those received by Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Aside from the usual pens, books and diaries valued at between R200 and R1,000, Mantashe declared a “picture” valued at R50,000 which he received from the Central Energy Fund – a state-owned company reporting to the minister’s department.

Speaking to Daily Maverick, Nathi Shabangu, a spokesperson for the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, described the gift as an “artistic portrait” of Mantashe that was delivered to the minister’s home around the time of his birthday on 21 June 2023.

Another gift Mantashe declared was wine from Australia, valued at R9,719.16. Under Land and Properties, Mantashe declared a 300-square-meter residential property in Boksburg. He declared no other shares or financial interests (by himself, family and other trusts). 

What’s on Barbara Creecy’s reading list?

While not nearly as significant as a R50,000 portrait of herself, it seemed that Creecy’s gift-givers were looking to add to the minister’s reading list as she declared a series of books received over the year, a R1,670 Hugo Boss perfume, a R3,500 leather duffle bag, a R5,000 hand-woven rug, and more.

So what is on Creecy’s reading list and has she in fact read them? The minister received four books, valued at a total of R2,150, from the Antarctic Legacy South Africa on 8 June 2023 for World Oceans Day: Exploring a Sub-Antarctic Wilderness; Gough Island; ANT{INK}TICA; and The Prince Edward Island.

Creecy also received three books from the Botanical Society of South Africa on 19 May for the Department of Forestries and Fisheries (DFFE) Budget Vote, valued at R1,150: Plants in Peril; Plants of the Baviaanskloof; and Wildflowers of the Table Mountain National Park Flower Guide of SA No. 12. 

DFFE spokesperson Peter Mbelengwa said the minister had read the books and Creecy added:

“I really like these books because I have visited Antarctica and I have a deep interest in the South Africa National Antarctic Programme programme, particularly the research programme on the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands that presents one of the most significant longitudinal data sets stretching back over three-quarters of a century.”

Under Land and Properties, Creecy declared a 1,100-square-meter residential property in Simon’s Town, Cape Town, and an 881-square-meter residential property in Parkview, Johannesburg. She declared no other shares and other financial interests (by herself, family and other trusts).

Gordhan’s Karpower SA gift

Among a range of dates, peanuts, a glass frame with a Chinese picture, and a cloth painting – Gordhan declared a small desk display with Karpowership SA branding which he received from Karpowership’s chief commercial officer, Zeynep Harezi Yilmaz, at a meeting about issues relating to the Transnet National Ports Authority. The gift was valued at R500.

Ellis Mnyandu, Department of Public Enterprises spokesperson, said the gift from Karpowership SA, as was the case with the others declared by Gordhan, was not a form of any inducement as the minister does not get involved in procurement or business proposals.

“These processes are handled by the administrative head of the department, the Director-General, and their staff. The company concerned had approached the department for a meeting about certain issues relating to TNPA [Transnet National Ports Authority]. The department referred them to TNPA,” he said. 

In comparison to the ministers mentioned above, who declared no shares and other financial interests held by themselves or family and other trusts, Gordhan declared almost two pages of shares in several companies including Naspers, Prosus (a global investment group), Sygnia Itrix (a collective investments scheme) and Shoprite Holdings.

Gordhan also declared a flat in Durban valued at about R3-million.

Conflicts of interest

In the Register of Members’ Interests, MPs are expected to register their financial interests and those of their spouses, dependants and permanent companions every year – most of this is open to the public.

Co-chairpersons of the Joint Committee on Ethics And Members’ Interests, Bekizwe Nkosi and Lydia Moshodi, explain that the register is intended to encourage openness and accountability, “creating public trust and confidence in public representatives and to protect the integrity of Parliament”.

This is a crucial process as MPs are in a powerful position to influence high-level decision-making and there may be times when their personal or business interests conflict with their role as elected officials representing the public interest.

Thus, a committee of both Houses of Parliament develops standards of ethical behaviour for MPs and administers a code of conduct. Nkosi and Moshodi said that in the case of ethical concerns, anyone can file a complaint with the committee which will be investigated in terms of clause 10 of the code. 

However, the committee’s work is limited in scope to ensure the administrative process is in place to secure adherence to the code.

“The code places the onus on the member to always adhere to acceptable ethical standards, to act with integrity and honesty, and to promote ethical conduct. The limitation in scope is the principal reason why the committee will undertake a review,” they said.

The code is intended for members of Parliament and clause 9.3.6 compels members to declare gifts and hospitality in excess of R1,500 from a source other than a family member or permanent companion, or gifts of a traditional nature provided this does not create a conflict of interest for the member. The code is silent on the maximum value of acceptable gifts.

Electricity Minister

The register includes declarations only from members of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces, therefore Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s interests were not included.

Ramokgopa is a member of the executive by virtue of Section 91 (3)(c) of the Constitution which allows the president to select no more than two ministers from outside the National Assembly. Declarations as per the executive apply.

However, to ensure transparency, Ramokgopa’s spokesperson Tsakane Khambane told Daily Maverick that the minister submits his registrable financial interests to the Registrar of Parliament in line with the rules. DM

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    The books should have been thrown at her! Shame on the Botanical Society of S.A : members and donors take note. A portrait of Mantashe? Delusions of grandeur, or what? Why give them gifts at all? Brown- nosing?

  • Ron Singh says:

    “not a form of any inducement as the minister does not get involved in procurement or business proposals”….?!

  • enele sesinyi says:

    is there something to explain about prejudice: apartheid, racism, nazism, tribalism etc etc

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    Kristen; So far as Gwede is ‘(He) declared no other shares or financial interests (by himself, family and other trusts)’ The question is rhetorical, but does he not know that this information is easily verifiable from publicly available information? That Trusts & Companies are registered & that this information is not only available to SARS & The FIC – but to the Public? That the DM could access & publish this information without legal challenge or recourse? Is this not something you will be investigating further? Gwede Uncovered – Catching the Tiger by the Tale – this one would win you Awards

  • Kid Charlemagne says:

    There should be one rule; “No public official employed by or connected to the government of the Republic of SA shall accept any gift of any kind.”

  • Francoise Phillips says:

    So the ANC cabinet seems to have decided that the Electricity Minister’s declarations are not to be shared publicly? Flashing red light to society that the ANC and it’s criminal network of cadre’s machinations are operating at full force to rob the people.

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

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options