Secretive state diamond deal

Secretive state diamond deal

Claims of fraud and dark dealings spark legal drama.

As a senior government diamond valuator and as a “new South Africa” success story, Conrad Dintwe Benn could have expected some respect. Instead, he has been living a nightmare for more than a year, thanks not least to his employer, The South African Diamond and Precious Metals Regulator, known in the trade simply as the “Diamond Regulator” – and to be distinguished from the State Diamond Trader (both entities are parastatals).

Benn is simultaneously in the crosshairs of the heavies at De Beers, the world’s biggest diamond miner. As one of the more enduring corporates, De Beers has for more than a century maintained a vice-like control of the global diamond market through its various sales entities, known loosely at times as the CSO, the Central Selling Organisation.

This strange and terrifying tale is told in papers filed in a case still pending in the South Gauteng High Court. The case was triggered by events that led to, first, a disciplinary hearing for Benn, then a Labour Court hearing and, finally, the currently pending high court case.

Between a rock and a hard place

Between a rock and a hard place

On June 2 Clifford Elphick, executor of Harry oppenheimer's estate, helicopter pilot, owner of snooty Kurland Polo Estate and CEO of London-listed Gem Diamonds, takes the podium at Gem's Annual General Meeting in London. Shareholders will have the opportunity to question the elfin 54-year-old on his 2014 annual remuneration package – up 15% to £892,935 (R16.25 million).  And one or two other matters of concern... 

Clifford Elphick, former trusted aide to Harry Oppenheimer and would-be diamond king himself, was dazzled by John Bond’s secret gem-cutting invention. “My one regret is that Mr Oppenheimer is not alive to witness this amazing technology in action,” he enthused. “It would have changed De Beer’s strategy for ever.”

A man of great gifts

A man of great gifts

In a world of natural disasters and political chaos, Imtiaz Sooliman keeps a cool head. The remarkable founder of  Gift of the Givers confronts a sea of troubles and never loses heart.

Next time you’re feeling really, really busy, spare a thought for Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder and director of Africa’s largest disaster relief agency, Gift of the Givers. “It’s insane at the moment,” he says when we meet in April. “We have chaos happening in Syria, chaos happening in Yemen and chaos happening in Somalia.”

We’re at the organisation’s Cape Town branch – a large warehouse and office complex in Athlone. Sooliman is in town for the 19th World Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine, where he is the keynote speaker, and he has screeched in from the convention centre just in time for our interview.

Sooliman, dressed in his trademark green Gift of the Givers tracksuit top, lays out five cellphones in front of him. A lean, animated man, he speaks with rapid-fire speed. At the same time he appears unfazed, perhaps even a little detachedly amused, at the chaos he describes.

Undermining the West Coast

Undermining the West Coast

The South African West Coast has always had a reputation as a wild place but it has taken an Australian mining outfit to show the locals just how wild things can get.

The heavy mineral sands Tormin mine, owned by ASX-listed Australian company Mineral Commodities Ltd (MRC), boasted in its first quarter of operation that the mine would pay for itself after less than a year in full operation – an almost unprecedented return on capital from mining. The mine is currently valued at around AU$50m (around R477m). In the light of these extraordinary profits it seems the company has been tempted to take some unhappy shortcuts to achieve its goals, raising questions about its management approach and operational ethics.

Research into the mine, situated 350km north of Cape Town, has revealed numerous infractions that serve to undermine South African environmental and mining regulatory regimes.

A bridge too far

A bridge too far

Naval battle rages over the undersea remains of the good ship Pietermaritzburg.

There’s something strangely comforting about the fact that there’s a Ship Society of South Africa – a group of enthusiasts who get together regularly to listen to speakers or watch DVDs. But equally there is discomfiture in the fact that two organs of state recently tried to interfere with this harmless little society’s activities by dictating who it could invite to speak at its meetings.

Earlier this year the society decided to ask one of its members, marine salvor Gary Mills, to give a talk. The idea was that he would discuss the work he’d been involved in during 2013 – the raising of the bridge of the SAS Pietermaritzburg. As usual, invitations were sent out but in this case there were some unusual replies.

R852,000 flying Tutu: who cashed in?

R852,000 flying Tutu: who cashed in?

A sculpture of a flying Archbishop Tutu which was bought for R40,000 by well-known but now defunct Idasa was recently sold at a Strauss auction for R852,000. Who got lucky?

"I'll send you bad dreams,” Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu told Ed Young, the sculptor who created The Flying Arch. It was a joke of course, but it may have been a portent for whoever came to own it – of good or bad luck.

The Flying Arch first “flew” in 2010 – from the ceiling of the Dakar Room at the Cape Town headquarters of Idasa (the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa), in its handsome Herbert Baker building on Spin Street, just around the corner from Parliament.

 

The two faces of Djavan Arrigone, model

The two faces of Djavan Arrigone, model

1: In February, University of Cape Town, student and ex-Boss model Djavan Arrigone, 20, explained to a magistrate that he and his friends had been drinking vodka, tequila, white wine, and whiskey shots over four hours before he decided to urinate off the balcony of nightclub Tiger Tiger on Claremont Main Road in in Cape Town’s southern suburbs.

2: In May, UCT student and model Djavan Arrigone appeared in yoga pose on the cover of Wellness Warehouse’s magazine, promoting an article headlined “Ask the gurus”. Inside the magazine an editorial cover note declared:  “We asked model Djavan Arrigone how he lives life well." His reply:...

Art exhibitionism

Art exhibitionism

As the rain buckets down for the second week in a row and parents give up the battle to keep their children off devices, one has to spare a thought for the homeless (increasingly, there they are;  scraggly bearded, mostly men) hovering on the periphery of our dinky-looking lives. More than 105,000 Australians are officially homeless. About 25% are Aboriginal, nearly 18,000 are children, and most have pets or “companion animals” which they often look after better than themselves. The biggest reason (accounting for about 31%) for homelessness is domestic violence.

Prince of Pot

Prince of Pot

The law is supposed to be fair and reasonable – but sometimes it isn’t. Mr & Mrs Tafari’s dagga-growing tenant has been occupying – and trashing – their R2m Simon's Town home, rent-free, for the ...
 
Secretive state diamond deal

Secretive state diamond deal

Claims of fraud and dark dealings spark legal drama. As a senior government diamond valuator and as a “new South Africa” success story, Conrad Dintwe Benn could have expected some respect. Instead, he ...

Between a rock and a hard place

Between a rock and a hard place

On June 2 Clifford Elphick, executor of Harry oppenheimer's estate, helicopter pilot, owner of snooty Kurland Polo Estate and CEO of London-listed Gem Diamonds, takes the podium at Gem's Annual General Meeting ...

A man of great gifts

A man of great gifts

In a world of natural disasters and political chaos, Imtiaz Sooliman keeps a cool head. The remarkable founder of  Gift of the Givers confronts a sea of troubles and never loses heart. ...

Undermining the West Coast

Undermining the West Coast

The South African West Coast has always had a reputation as a wild place but it has taken an Australian mining outfit to show the locals just how wild things can get. The ...

A bridge too far

A bridge too far

Naval battle rages over the undersea remains of the good ship Pietermaritzburg. There’s something strangely comforting about the fact that there’s a Ship Society of South Africa – a group of enthusiasts who get ...

R852,000 flying Tutu: who cashed in?

R852,000 flying Tutu: who cashed in?

A sculpture of a flying Archbishop Tutu which was bought for R40,000 by well-known but now defunct Idasa was recently sold at a Strauss auction for R852,000. Who got lucky? "I'll send you bad dreams,” Anglican ...

The two faces of Djavan Arrigone, model

The two faces of Djavan Arrigone, model

1: In February, University of Cape Town, student and ex-Boss model Djavan Arrigone, 20, explained to a magistrate that he and his friends had been drinking vodka, tequila, white wine, and whiskey shots ...

Art exhibitionism

Art exhibitionism

As the rain buckets down for the second week in a row and parents give up the battle to keep their children off devices, one has to spare a thought for the homeless ...