Sunday Times

Nene’s be­lated Gupta con­fes­sion has plunged SA into cri­sis

- South Africa Politics · South Africa News · Corruption · Politics · African Politics · Crime · Gupta family · Nhlanhla Nene · Iceland · Somalia · Belarus · Tonga · Austria · Mcebisi Jonas · Themba Maseko · Jacob Zuma · Cyril Ramaphosa · Belgium · Public Investment Corporation · Tina Joemat-Pettersson

Fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene is a noble man, or so we all thought. That is un­til he shocked SA this week by ad­mit­ting to hav­ing held for­mal meet­ings with the re­viled Gupta brothers at their Sax­on­wold com­pound and even at their of­fices in Midrand. “Whilst deputy min­is­ter, I vis­ited their home in Sax­on­wold on four oc­ca­sions, al­ways taken by my pro­tec­tors,” he said. “I re­garded the vis­its as one of my tasks as deputy min­is­ter to en­gage with dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers in the econ­omy. The vis­its were short, and ini­tially [were] to dis­cuss the econ­omy, and to con­trib­ute an ar­ti­cle to their mag­a­zine at the time, ‘The Thinker’.”

Nene’s rev­e­la­tions have left us with more ques­tions than an­swers. What is it that he was dis­cussing with the Gup­tas on the seven oc­ca­sions that he met with them? We all know that when Mce­bisi Jonas, who was deputy fi­nance min­is­ter un­der Nene, met with the Gup­tas, they of­fered him the po­si­tion of fi­nance min­is­ter. We all know that he re­jected them out­right and im­me­di­ately in­formed his close con­fi­dants in gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing Nene, what the Gup­tas had sug­gested.

Why was it that Nene never saw the need to dis­close his own meet­ings with the Gup­tas? What was he hid­ing?

Of even greater im­por­tance is what was dis­cussed at those meet­ings. Nene has told the Zondo com­mis­sion into state cap­ture that he and the Gup­tas dis­cussed their me­dia as­sets, the now de­funct New Age news­pa­per and the ANN7 news chan­nel. What did Nene prom­ise the Gup­tas?

Themba Maseko, for­mer head of the Gov­ern­ment

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem, has tes­ti­fied at length about how he was called by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob

Zuma and asked to speak to the Gup­tas about gov­ern­ment sup­port for The New Age and ANN7.

Ac­cord­ing to Maseko’s tes­ti­mony, he re­fused to co­op­er­ate with the Gup­tas, an­ger­ing Atul Gupta so much he re­ported him to Zuma. Maseko sub­se­quently lost his job.

Did Nene agree that the state would pump hun­dreds of mil­lions of rands into prop­ping up the Gup­tas’ pro­pa­ganda em­pire? Is that why he was later re­warded with a pro­mo­tion to fi­nance min­is­ter in 2014? On

Tues­day it was re­ported that Nene had, among other things, dis­cussed with the Gup­tas the Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (PIC) deal with Iqbal Survé’s Sekun­jalo In­vest­ment Hold­ings.

Nene was at one time chair of the PIC board by virtue of his po­si­tion as deputy fi­nance min­is­ter. Why would he want to in­ter­vene in a busi­ness trans­ac­tion be­tween Sekun­jalo and the PIC, ap­par­ently at the be­hest of the Gup­tas? Nene also told the Zondo com­mis­sion that he and the Gup­tas dis­cussed the econ­omy. Do fi­nance min­is­ters dis­cuss the econ­omy with ran­dom pri­vate cit­i­zens, or is it only with wealthy and well-con­nected busi­ness­men?

We are not sug­gest­ing that Nene was cap­tured by the Gupta fam­ily. His courage was ap­par­ent when he tes­ti­fied about how for­mer en­ergy min­is­ter Tina Joe­mat-Pet­ters­son tried to coax him into sign­ing off on the Rus­sian nu­clear deal and how it an­gered ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing Zuma, when he re­fused to do so, cit­ing fi­nan­cial con­straints as the main con­cern. Had he not been that stead­fast, the coun­try would have been sad­dled with a R1-tril­lion deal it could not pos­si­bly af­ford.

But by omit­ting to pre­vi­ously men­tion his nu­mer­ous meet­ings with the Gup­tas, Nene has not only tainted his own rep­u­ta­tion, he has placed Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa in a predica­ment. Can po­ten­tial in­vestors trust a min­is­ter who seems to have played a role in help­ing those who looted bil­lions of rands in state funds? What about the clean-up cam­paign and the new dawn, is Nene still part of this mis­sion? Should he be pre­sent­ing the medium-term bud­get pol­icy state­ment in two weeks’ time? This is a ma­jor cri­sis.

Should he be pre­sent­ing the medi­umterm bud­get pol­icy state­ment?

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