Was pres­i­dent, ca­bal be­hind Nene’s fall?

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - AYANDA MDLULI ayanda.mdluli@inl.co.za

FALLEN for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene was the vic­tim of fac­tion­al­ism within the ANC camp that is led by Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

In­de­pen­dent Me­dia has es­tab­lished that some in the camp had hoped Nene would im­pli­cate for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in the in­quiry into al­le­ga­tions of state cap­ture.

When he did not, a cam­paign that in­cluded main­stream me­dia was launched, to dis­credit him.

The in­fight­ing re­sulted in Ramaphosa choos­ing, some­what un­ex­pect­edly, Tito Mboweni to run the Na­tional Trea­sury.

It is be­lieved some jour­nal­ists were com­mis­sioned to write neg­a­tive pieces on Nene.

Amab­hun­gane, an in­ves­ti­gat­ing unit with ties to the Mail & Guardian ran a story ti­tled “The fi­nance min­is­ter, his son and the Mozam­bi­can re­fin­ery”.

How­ever, a sim­i­lar story first ap­peared in the Week­lyx­pose in June 2017 un­der the head­line “PIC boss’s dodgy R1bn Mozam­bi­can deal”. It was fol­lowed a month later by an­other ti­tled “R1bn oil deal mess: PIC boss Matjila sued”.

“What you need to un­der­stand is that amab­hun­gane is con­trolled by one min­is­ter,” said a source. “They had this in­for­ma­tion for two years and it was even pub­lished in the Week­lyx­pose, a tabloid style on­line pub­li­ca­tion in 2017. It’s funny how the edi­tor of the Mail & guardian, Khadija Pa­tel, got them to run it as a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion when it was so old.

“They knew the pub­lic would for­give Nene for the Gup­tas, but would not for­give him for cor­rup­tion. Iron­i­cally, the ca­bal that dis­cred­ited the pub­li­ca­tion a few years ago used in­for­ma­tion from it against Nene.”

Pa­tel re­fused to com­ment. “I refuse to re­spond to a patently ob­vi­ous smear cam­paign,” she said.

Mean­while, it is be­lieved that jour­nal­ists at the Sun­day Times and Busi­ness Day, owned by Tiso Black­star, are con­trolled by op­pos­ing fac­tions in Ramaphosa’s group in the ANC. Meet­ings are held weekly to set the agenda.

Mean­while, foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tor Paul O’sul­li­van has con­tin­ued to pile pres­sure on the group, which he be­lieves helped en­sure state cap­ture.

“With­out the Sun­day Times, state cap­ture would not have been pos­si­ble… Fake news sto­ries with the threads ‘SARS rogue unit’ as well as ‘Zim­babwe ren­di­tions’ and ‘Cato Manor death squad’ were ‘planted’ by Richard Mduli’s ac­com­plices, us­ing two cheque­book jour­nal­ists on the pay­roll of Tiso Black­star, hav­ing been dis­cretely moved within the cor­po­rate mist.

“The Sun­day Times fake news sto­ries were noth­ing more than a care­fully or­ches­trated plot to cap­ture the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. That one man could be ac­tively en­gaged in state cap­ture, then seek to profit from it by writ­ing a book, Li­cence to Loot, is un­be­liev­able. The au­dac­ity of crim­i­nals fails to amaze me,” said O’sul­li­van.

He has de­manded the Sun­day Times pro­vide a re­trac­tion of all fake news sto­ries: “SARS rogue unit”, “Zim­babwe ren­di­tions” and “Cato Manor death squad” and ad­mit its jour­nal­ists and ed­i­to­rial team were cap­tured and played a sig­nif­i­cant role in state cap­ture.

He also de­manded the jour­nal­ists hand back the awards they re­ceived for the sto­ries and pro­vide a front-page apol­ogy to the peo­ple of South Africa.

JA­COB Zuma has been vindi­cated for fir­ing Nh­lanhla Nene in De­cem­ber 2015. That’s ac­cord­ing to two men who are close to the for­mer pres­i­dent; Carl Niehaus and Des van Rooyen.

Both be­lieve Zuma knew Nene was up to no good at the Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (PIC) and this was one of the rea­sons he fired Nene as the coun­try’s fi­nance min­is­ter.

Des van Rooyen, the man who re­placed Nene, said he was “con­fi­dent” that part of the rea­sons Zuma fired Nene was be­cause of the rot at PIC dur­ing Nene’s ten­ure.

“But the for­mer pres­i­dent would not come out and tell the pub­lic that kind of in­for­ma­tion be­cause of the re­spect he has for his com­rades and the ANC. He is vindi­cated by what is hap­pen­ing now,” said Van Rooyen.

“Com­rades tend to drive a nar­ra­tive that some com­rades are cor­rupt but now things are com­ing out in the open,” he said. Van Rooyen’s ap­point­ment was re­versed just four days into his job af­ter a pub­lic outcry and a crash in the fi­nan­cial mar­kets.

Carl Niehaus, a for­mer ANC spokesper­son, said that while Zuma did not give rea­sons why Nene was hastily re­moved in De­cem­ber 2015, the “shenani­gans at the PIC would have fea­tured in his con­sid­er­a­tions of why he was get­ting rid of him.”

Niehaus said there was a case for Nene to an­swer re­gard­ing the fund­ing that a com­pany co-owned by his son, Siyabonga, al­legedly re­ceived from PIC. This hap­pened while Nene was the chair of the PIC.

Niehaus said he was not pre­judg­ing Nene, but in­sisted that there were se­ri­ous ques­tions marks about his con­duct. “With the wis­dom of hind­sight one can now ask whether com­rade Nene was in fact the paragon of moral­ity that some in the main­stream me­dia made him out to be.

“There was an avalanche of most vi­cious crit­i­cism against for­mer pres­i­dent Zuma when he re­lieved Mr Nene from his du­ties. It seems like com­rade Nene dug his own grave,” said Niehaus.

Ac­cord­ing to sources within the ANC, Nene’s re­moval three years ago deeply di­vided the ANC as well as the Top Six. Mem­bers of the Top Six at the time were Zuma, his then deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, trea­surer-gen­eral, Zweli Mkhize, sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe his deputy, Jessie Duarte and na­tional chair­per­son Baleka Mbete.

“This Nenegate thing nearly tore the or­gan­i­sa­tion apart. Com­rades turned against each other but on hind­sight one would say the for­mer pres­i­dent was cor­rect,” said an NEC mem­ber who spoke on con­di­tion anonymity.

This week Nene re­signed fol­low­ing a pub­lic back­lash that he had vis­ited the Gup­tas when pre­vi­ously he claimed not to have done so. Ques­tions were also asked about his role in the PIC’S de­ci­sion to fund a com­pany linked to his son.

While tes­ti­fy­ing at the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into Al­le­ga­tions of State Cap­ture, Nene said he be­lieved Zuma fired him be­cause he re­fused to give the go ahead for a R1 tril­lion nu­clear deal with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

Zuma has not in­di­cated whether he will tes­tify at the state com­mis­sion of in­quiry. His spokesper­son, Vuk­ile Matha­bela, did not re­spond to the ques­tions that were sent to him this week about Nene’s res­ig­na­tion.

NH­LANHLA NENE

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