Sunday Times

Why JZ fired me — Nh­lanhla Nene

Irate pres­i­dent asked why his pet projects were al­ways blocked

- By RANJENI MUNUSAMY Business · South Africa Politics · South Africa News · Corruption · Politics · African Politics · Crime · Nhlanhla Nene · Jacob Zuma · Petronas Gas · Pravin Gordhan · Russia · Federal Atomic Energy Agency · Gupta family · Isabel dos Santos · South African Airways · Dudu Myeni · Airbus · African National Congress · Cyril Ramaphosa · David van Rooyen · Vanuatu · Mcebisi Jonas · Tina Joemat-Pettersson

● Fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene will con­firm for the first time this week how pres­sure to ap­prove the R1.6-tril­lion nu­clear deal led to him be­ing fired in De­cem­ber 2015, and the in­tense pres­sure then-pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma ex­erted on the Na­tional Trea­sury to fund ma­jor projects that were un­af­ford­able.

Nene will tes­tify at the Zondo com­mis­sion about a tense build-up to his fir­ing, in­clud­ing how, on the eve of his ax­ing, Zuma ac­cused him and for­mer Trea­sury di­rec­tor­gen­eral Lungisa Fuzile of ob­struct­ing mega deals that the pres­i­dent wanted ap­proved.

This in­cluded the Trea­sury’s re­fusal to is­sue a guar­an­tee for PetroSA to buy a con­trol­ling stake in En­gen from the Malaysian state com­pany Petronas at dou­ble its value.

Nene’s ev­i­dence will be the first in a wave of rev­e­la­tions to be pre­sented to the in­quiry into state cap­ture by a high-pow­ered line-up of for­mer and cur­rent of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing pub­lic en­ter­prises min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han, Fuzile, and for­mer deputy fi­nance min­is­ter Mce­bisi Jonas.

This is in re­sponse to Zondo’s re­quest to Jonas, when he tes­ti­fied last month, for ev­i­dence about the nu­clear deal and the hos­til­ity from the cabinet to­wards the Trea­sury.

The of­fi­cials will re­veal that po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on the Trea­sury cen­tred on four big is­sues, all of which re­lated to Zuma al­legedly us­ing the state to help friends and con­nec­tions. These are:

● The nu­clear deal that was to be awarded to Rus­sia’s Rosatom and would have ben­e­fited the Gup­tas through their com­pany Shiva Ura­nium;

● The PetroSA guar­an­tee to buy an 80% stake in En­gen. An­golan state-owned oil com­pany So­nan­gol, chaired by Is­abel dos San­tos, the daugh­ter of the then pres­i­dent, was to buy half of PetroSA’s stake;

● Ac­ced­ing to for­mer SAA chair Dudu Myeni’s de­mands for the approval of fund­ing and guar­an­tees for the Air­bus deal; and

● In­ter­ven­tion over the clo­sure of the Gupta bank ac­counts.

Nene will re­veal how, the day be­fore he was axed, then en­ergy min­is­ter Tina Joe­mat Pet­ters­son pre­sented the pro­posal for the 9,600MW nu­clear pro­cure­ment pro­gramme at a cabinet en­ergy se­cu­rity sub­com­mit­tee meet­ing.

At the meet­ing, Zuma asked Nene and Fuzile for their views. Both were strongly op­posed, ar­gu­ing that it was un­af­ford­able.

An an­gry Zuma then ques­tioned why the Trea­sury con­sis­tently tor­pe­doed big projects that he had sanc­tioned.

The cabinet ap­proved the nu­clear deal the next day, mean­ing that bid­ders could present pro­pos­als for the con­struc­tion of six to eight nu­clear reactors at a cost of up to R1.6-tril­lion.

Ev­i­dence to come be­fore the com­mis­sion in the next few weeks will also re­veal that Joe­mat-Pet­ters­son made the same pre­sen­ta­tion to the ANC’s top six of­fi­cials the day be­fore Nene’s fir­ing. This means that the ANC’s top brass, in­clud­ing Cyril Ramaphosa, then deputy pres­i­dent, did not op­pose the nu­clear deal.

Nene’s ax­ing and the ap­point­ment of Des van Rooyen as fi­nance min­is­ter was an­nounced in a state­ment from the pres­i­dency on De­cem­ber 9 2015, the night that the cabinet ap­proved the nu­clear deal.

Mayhem on the mar­kets and pres­sure from the bank­ing sec­tor led to the ANC of­fi­cials con­vinc­ing Zuma to re­move Van Rooyen four days later and ap­point Gord­han, which he grudg­ingly did.

The ten­sion stemmed from the fact that, dur­ing his first term as fi­nance min­is­ter, Gord­han had fended off pres­sure to is­sue the PetroSA guar­an­tee of be­tween R18bn and R20bn, in­sist­ing that due diligence first be con­ducted. The value of the com­pany was

Nene’s ev­i­dence will be the first in a wave of rev­e­la­tions to be pre­sented to the in­quiry by a high­pow­ered line-up

be­tween R8bn and R10bn.

Nene also re­fused to is­sue the guar­an­tee dur­ing his term as fi­nance min­is­ter.

It is un­der­stood that Zuma per­son­ally hounded Fuzile to make the PetroSA pur­chase pos­si­ble, but Fuzile re­sisted.

When he ap­pears at the com­mis­sion next week, Gord­han will also tes­tify about how he was un­der pres­sure from Zuma to com­ply with Myeni’s de­mands for approval of the Air­bus deal on her terms.

He will re­veal why he re­sorted to go­ing to court for pro­tec­tion against pres­sure to in­ter­vene on be­half of the Gup­tas when their bank ac­counts were ter­mi­nated by SA’s ma­jor banks.

Gord­han re­fused to at­tend meet­ings of an in­ter­min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee set up by the cabinet to look into the clo­sure of the Gupta ac­counts.

This led to a com­mit­tee, chaired by then min­eral re­sources min­is­ter Mosebenzi Zwane, meet­ing the banks in Gord­han’s ab­sence and try­ing to force them to con­tinue trans­act­ing for the fam­ily.

Nene and Gord­han will also give ev­i­dence con­firm­ing Jonas’s tes­ti­mony that he in­formed them of his meet­ing with one of the Gupta brothers in Oc­to­ber 2015, in which he was of­fered the fi­nance min­is­ter po­si­tion.

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