April 3, 2008 — Vol. 43, No. 34
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Fuel company announces S. Africa’s largest black empowerment deal

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — South African fuel and petrochemicals group Sasol recently announced it will sell 10 percent of its shares to black investors as part of a campaign to address inequities created by the country’s apartheid past.

The deal, the largest transaction to date under the program known as black economic empowerment, involves 63.1 million shares and is valued at $3.2 billion, the company announced.

Under the structure, 4 percent of shares would go to Sasol’s 27,000 mainly black employees, 3 percent to other black South Africans, 1.5 percent to selected black empowerment groups and another 1.5 percent to a foundation set up by the company to focus on training in communities around the company’s main plants.

“We will make a difference by creating significant economic opportunity for more than 1 million potential beneficiaries ranging from individuals to rural women’s groups,” Sasol chief executive Pat Davies said in a statement.

While Sasol first announced the deal last year, it released details of the final terms on March 25.

The government, which has faced criticism that too few blacks are benefiting from the end of white rule in 1994, has issued guidelines to encourage companies to bring black South Africans into ownership and management and to do business with black-owned companies.
Black economic empowerment initiatives in the past have focused primarily on transfer of ownership and a change of color among top management.

Sasol has previously agreed to black economic empowerment deals involving equity stakes in its operations. It last year sold a 26 percent interest in Sasol Oil to Tshwarisano LFB Investments and it expects to complete the first phase of an empowerment deal at Sasol Mining and announce a second transaction this year.

Amid son’s legal battle, Mich. congresswoman may face challenge in Dem primary

WASHINGTON — A Michigan congresswoman whose son, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, is battling perjury charges may face a challenge of her own this summer — in the Democratic primary.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, a six-term lawmaker from Detroit, is drawing talk of at least one Democratic opponent.

Former state Rep. Mary Waters of Detroit said last Friday that she was collecting signatures to oppose Kilpatrick in the Aug. 5 primary. Gary Brown, a former Detroit police officer whose lawsuit over his dismissal led to criminal charges against the mayor, said he was also considering a congressional campaign.

Kilpatrick leads the Congressional Black Caucus and has faced little opposition since she was first elected to Congress in 1996.

The congresswoman has said her work on the House Appropriations Committee has delivered a half-billion dollars to the state and her district and noted in a Feb. 29 statement that voters “have repeatedly expressed their confidence in my abilities.”

The mayor and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, have pleaded not guilty to charges of perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office in a case tied to a lawsuit brought by Brown and another former officer. The former officers won a jury verdict last year after arguing that they were fired for investigating claims that the mayor used his security unit to cover up extramarital affairs.

The mayor had said he would challenge the verdict, but prosecutors allege that a multimillion-dollar settlement was reached after the officers’ attorney showed Kilpatrick’s lawyers references to text messages that had been left on Beatty’s city-issued pager. The Detroit Free Press published excerpts of the messages in January, prompting an investigation that led to charges against Kilpatrick and Beatty.

U.S. Rep. Conyers: La. inmates were wrongly convicted

BATON ROUGE, La. — The chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee said two Louisiana inmates, former Black Panthers in solitary confinement since the 1970s, were wrongly convicted.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., did not say that inmates Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox should be released, but in a statement urged “a swift and just resolution of this matter.”

“I recently became aware of evidence that may suggest both Mr. Wallace and Mr. Woodfox were wrongly convicted,” Conyers wrote.

Two of the men activists call the “Angola Three,” Wallace and Woodfox say they are victims of cruel and unusual punishment because they’ve been in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the state’s top-security prison, since 1972. Both are appealing their convictions in the death of a guard.

Jimmy LeBlanc, Louisiana’s chief of prisons, has said Wallace and Woodfox are in solitary because they would be endangered if returned to the general prison population.

Conyers visited with Wallace and Woodfox for two hours last Thursday and took a tour of the prison. Conyers said a scheduling conflict prevented him from meeting with Gov. Bobby Jindal, but added, “I look forward to the opportunity to talk with him in the near future.”

The chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said his committee will hold hearings on the case, and he called on Jindal to pardon the men.

Jindal’s press secretary Melissa Sellers said the state Pardon Board must make a recommendation before a pardon request can be forwarded to the governor.

Robert King, the other of the Angola Three group, had his conviction for killing another inmate overturned. He was released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary confinement. King, who once used the last name Wilkerson, lives in Texas.

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