HARARE - The European owners of one of Zimbabwe's prime and undeveloped platinum resources have reportedly appointed Sebastian Buchte - an executive who has been arrested and deported from South Africa (SA) - to head its African operations.
ERG LLP, a Luxembourg-based natural resources company partly owning Bougai Platinum Mine along the Great Dyke, also owns SABOT, a major Zimbabwean transport company -- as well as substantial mining assets in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and SA.
The company was previously known as ENRC and listed on the London Stock Exchange.
However, records suggest that Buchte is a regular visitor to Zimbabwe where he has apparently unsuccessfully tried to persuade Mines minister Walter Chidakwa to give ERG a special mining lease on the Bougai mine.
It is further understood that Buchte has assured Chidakwa that ERG would "pump millions of dollars into Bougai once a special mining lease has been issued", but sources claim ERG merely wants to "bump-off" (sell) Bougai to another investor - and just as the previous owner did - and that it has no intention to develop the concession.
As it is, Mimosa Platinum Resources is said to be among the companies that are interested in buying the lucrative mine.
“All that is standing in ERG's way to sell Bougai is the special mining lease and once it gets it, it will definitely sell the asset, with those wishing to take it over taking a long term view and prepared to wait for up to 20 years before they will develop it,” a Zimbabwean government source said.
Buchte, it has been learnt, was confronted by South African Home Affairs inspectors at ERG's head office in Johannesburg on August 11, 2014 "for working without a work permit".
Sources in Pretoria told businessdaily yesterday that the German national made "a run for it", in a vain attempt to escape the authorities' attention, in full view of his staff -- but was caught on surveillance cameras and arrested a few hours later at his residence in SA's economic capital.
Buchte was subsequently deported from SA later that day and declared a prohibited person in the country.
However, the man has been trying since then to persuade South African authorities to allow him back into the country, without success.
According to sources, Buchte had - after deportation from SA - informed authorities in Pretoria that he wasn’t employed by ENRC and was only at the ENRC offices on that day coincidentally.
However, Home Affairs apparently insists that he was in fact employed by ENRC Africa, in contravention of South African legislation, after they were allegedly handed ENRC Africa's office biometric access control information tha showed that Buchte was at the offices "all the time”.
But ERG and Buchte have not given up their quest to get him allowed back into SA -- apparently consistently interacting with the South African Department of Trade and Industry in an attempt to get that office to persuade Home Affairs to uplift his illegal status.
“Can you imagine our surprise when we were informed last week that Sebastian is the CEO of ERG Africa? How is he going to run the company from Europe? We have so many good African candidates to take over the running of the company but Benedikt (Benedikt Sobotka, the chief executive officer of ERG) wants someone from Europe who cannot even come here to run the company," a source close to the company said.
ENRC changed its name to ERG shortly after the United Kingdom's serious frauds office had commenced investigations into its DRC activities.