Pravin and I were iso­lated, says Jonas

Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS - ANA

FORMER deputy fi­nance min­is­ter Mce­bisi Jonas yes­ter­day out­lined how he and now Public En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han were iso­lated and op­er­ated in a hos­tile po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment as al­le­ga­tions of state cap­ture against former pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and the Gupta fam­ily sur­faced.

Tes­ti­fy­ing in the ju­di­cial com­mis­sion of in­quiry into state cap­ture, Jonas said it was not easy to trust any­one as the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem at the time was in cri­sis. The en­tire Trea­sury and then co-op­er­a­tive gover­nance min­is­ter Gord­han were iso­lated po­lit­i­cally and from gov­ern­ment busi­ness. Gord­han re­mained Jonas’s con­fi­dante fol­low­ing a R600 mil­lion bribe he al­leges the Gupta fam­ily of­fered him in re­turn for favours if he was pro­moted to fi­nance min­is­ter.

“We were never in­formed about any­thing. We would be told late at night while in bed to wake up and watch tele­vi­sion (for new de­vel­op­ments). We were iso­lated. The func­tion­ing of Trea­sury suf­fered a knock, con­fi­dence in the min­istry was lost as we were iso­lated.”

He said the re­moval in De­cem­ber 2015 of Nh­lanhla Nene as fi­nance min­is­ter, whom Zuma re­placed with Des van Rooyen, dealt a blow to South Africa and wiped out bil­lions of rand worth of in­vest­ments.

Com­mis­sion ev­i­dence leader Phillip Mokoena asked Jonas: “Tell us, how did that af­fect the credit rat­ings?” Jonas replied: “The rat­ings were very bad. We were prob­a­bly in the worst state as a coun­try since the dawn of democ­racy. I don’t think we have re­cov­ered from that. The sit­u­a­tion was ag­gra­vated, I think, by the talks to take out debt to fi­nance the nu­clear deal… We (Trea­sury) be­lieved that South Africa could not af­ford nu­clear as it was struc­tured. It was not jus­ti­fi­able or eth­i­cal to raise that huge amount of debt for our fu­ture gen­er­a­tion (to grap­ple with).”

Van Rooyen, an ANC back­bencher at the time, was re­placed four days later with Gord­han.

Jonas’s le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive Wim Tren­gove was told by com­mis­sion chair­man Deputy Chief Jus­tice Ray­mond Zondo that he would need to ap­ply to the in­quiry if he needed to cross-ex­am­ine his client.

At the in­quiry were Gord­han, former ANC MP Vytjie Men­tor and former Sars spokesman Adrian Lackay.

Ear­lier, Jonas out­lined shock­ing de­tails of a meet­ing in Oc­to­ber 2015 at the Gupta fam­ily’s Sax­on­wold com­pound in Joburg, ar­ranged by Zuma’s son Duduzane. He said that at the meet­ing, fugi­tive Ajay Gupta told him that Nene would be fired as fi­nance min­is­ter and Jonas would get the post if he agreed. Gupta of­fered him R600m to “stash away in any ac­count” or bank in Dubai. Jonas said he was of­fered a pre-pay­ment of R600 000 on the spot by Gupta as he stood up to leave, but said he did not want the money.

As he walked out, Gupta fol­lowed, ask­ing him: “Do you know who you are deal­ing with? You think this is il­le­gal? It is le­gal… look at the mo­ment, we make R6 bil­lion from state com­pa­nies, we want to grow it to R8 bil­lion.”

He then al­legedly threat­ened Jonas against re­port­ing the meet­ing.

“This meet­ing did not hap­pen hey… you say any­thing to any­one, if you sug­gest (this) meet­ing oc­curred, we will kill you,” Gupta al­legedly said. – African News Agency (ANA)

PIC­TURE: MATTHEWS BALOYI/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Ex-deputy min­ster of fi­nance Mce­bisi Jonas at the Zondo com­mis­sion of in­quiry.

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