22 March 2006

South Africa: Zama Restates Interest in Komatiland Forests

Johannesburg — TIMBER company Zama Resources, the preferred bidder in the initial privatisation attempt of Komatiland forestry assets four years ago, said yesterday that it would bid for the acquisition of the R369m in assets if government put them on sale again.

The then-R335m deal was terminated by the cabinet after investigations found an "indisputable proof" that some Zama officials had deposited R55000 into the bank account of then public enterprises department chief director Andile Nkuhlu.

A separate, but related investigation by PricewaterhouseCoopers cleared the board of Zama of any wrongdoing, finding that the money was paid without the board's knowledge.

Zama director Mlungisi Kwini said that although the company was "not doing any business now" it was interested in acquiring the coveted forestry assets.

Government said last week it had cancelled the deal it had entered into with the Bonheur consortium, which quit last month without providing reasons.

But the Competition Commission is opposed to the deal, saying it would create a private monopoly and lead to the closure of smaller sawmillers.

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