Meet the man taking down price colluders

Competition Commission Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele is on a mission to bring down the country's corrupt corporates

Bonakele is an admitted attorney who practised predominately in the fields of labour law, regulation, and health and safety at Cheadle Thompson & Haysom before joining the Commission.

He holds a BJuris, an LLB from the University of Fort Hare as well as an MBA from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs) at the University of Pretoria.

Bonakele has been with the Competition Commission for more than a decade, barring a seven-month stint in 2013 when he briefly left the organisation.

His journey to the top saw him working as head of mergers, head of compliance and senior legal counsel before being appointed deputy commissioner in 2008, then commissioner in 2014.

READ MORE: Competition Tribunal prosecutes banks for collusion

Bonakele was instrumental in setting up the Commission’s cartel division and he’s been personally involved in all of the major cartel investigations undertaken in the past 10 years, including the 2007 bread and flour price-fixing case in which Tiger Brands was fined R99 million after admitting to colluding with other bread producers to fix the price of bread.

He also played a central role in the construction industry’s bid-rigging cartel as well as Telkom and SAB’s abuse of dominance cases.

In 2016, the Commission meted out its highest fine ever to steel producer ArcelorMittal SA for its part in a steel cartel ring which colluded to fix the prices of steel-related materials.

Most recently, Bonakele announced that the Commission had referred a case of price-fixing and market allocation in trading foreign currency pairs involving the rand to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution, as well as other international banks such as the Bank of America Merrill Lynch International Limited, BNP Paribas, JP Morgan Chase & Co and JP Morgan Chase Bank NA.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Competition Commission said it found that from at least 2007 the respondents had a general agreement to collude on prices for bids, offers and bid-offer spreads for the spot trades in relation to currency trading involving the US dollar-rand currency pair.

READ MORE: Timing of banks’ collusion case ‘suspicious’

“The Commission found that the respondents manipulated the price of bids and offers through agreements to refrain from trading and creating fictitious bids and offers at particular times,” it said.

The Commission also alleges that those implicated in the investigation used platforms such as Reuters’ currency trading platforms to collude with one another. They also made use of Bloomberg’s messaging services.

According to his bio, Bonakele “occasionally” teaches competition law at the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development.

He also serves as the chairperson of the African Competition Forum and is a member of the International Competition Network Steering Group.