Pravin and I were isolated, says Jonas
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)
Ex-deputy minster of finance Mcebisi Jonas at the Zondo commission of inquiry.