‘I met Gup­tas at pub­lic events’

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - SIYABONGA MKHWANAZI AND LUNGANI ZUNGU

THE storm over Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han to come clean about his meet­ings with the Gup­tas in­ten­si­fied this week, but in a 2016 par­lia­men­tary ques­tion he ac­knowl­edged that he met the con­tro­ver­sial fam­ily.

The EFF are gun­ning for Gord­han to be axed from Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabi­net af­ter it ap­peared that he had con­tra­dicted him­self in his state­ment to the state cap­ture com­mis­sion with his ear­lier re­sponses.

Gord­han is due to ap­pear be­fore the Zondo Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into state cap­ture this week where he is ex­pected to con­firm meet­ing the Gup­tas.

This fol­lowed the leak­ing of his state­ment to the me­dia.

In­de­pen­dent Me­dia has seen a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion by the DA on his meet­ings with the Gup­tas, and Gord­han con­firmed meet­ing the fam­ily.

The ques­tion was asked by DA MP Michael Ba­graim in 2016 when he asked Gord­han if he ever met the Gup­tas or any of their close as­so­ciates at their Sax­on­wold com­pound.

In his writ­ten re­sponse Gord­han ad­mit­ted to this.

“I have not at­tended any meet­ing with the Gupta fam­ily or any­one else at their Sax­on­wold Es­tate. I have en­coun­tered one or more mem­bers of his fam­ily at pub­lic events on a few oc­ca­sions, for ex­am­ple, a cricket match. I have met

one of the Gupta broth­ers at Mahlamba Nd­lopfu around 2009/10 dur­ing which a brief dis­cus­sion on small busi­ness fi­nance took place,” said Gord­han.

How­ever, the min­is­ter did not spec­ify who in the Gupta fam­ily he met at Mahlamba Nd­lopfu, the pres­i­dent’s official residence in Pre­to­ria.

The EFF has asked Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane to in­ves­ti­gate Gord­han for meet­ing

Ajay Gupta and an In­dian bil­lion­aire “Mr Am­bani” to dis­cuss the pos­si­ble acquisition of MTN.

The party has also sent Gord­han a list of 33 ques­tions to an­swer in­clud­ing his role, when he was com­mis­sioner of the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice, in the es­tab­lish­ment of the “rogue unit”.

It also wants him to clear the air on his role in the probe into Julius Malema’s tax af­fairs a few years ago. Malema was slapped with a mas­sive tax bill by the rev­enue ser­vice.

The Nu­gent com­mis­sion of in­quiry is prob­ing gov­er­nance is­sues at Sars where the is­sue of the col­lapse of the tax sys­tem has come up. For­mer Sars com­mis­sioner Tom Moy­ane was fired by Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa re­cently in line with the rec­om­men­da­tions of Judge Robert Nu­gent.

In the leaked state­ment, Gord­han said he met the Gup­tas in Pre­to­ria and for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma had called him to this meet­ing.

Be­fore he left govern­ment, for­mer min­is­ter of fi­nance Nh­lanhla Nene said many min­is­ters would ap­pear be­fore the Zondo Com­mis­sion.

Nene was forced to leave govern­ment af­ter it emerged he had lied about meet­ing the Gup­tas. In his sub­mis­sion and tes­ti­mony, Nene said he met the fam­ily sev­eral times.

The Ac­tive Cit­i­zens’ Move­ment and Mere­bank Jus­tice Net­work have rushed to the de­fence of Gord­han.

Dr Ashok Chandika de­scribed the EFF’s call for Gord­han to be sacked as “des­per­ate, ill-con­ceived and base­less”.

“Their des­per­a­tion stems from the fact that they are on the back-foot with re­spect to the VBS loot­ing saga in which high-rank­ing EFF of­fi­cials may be im­pli­cated,” he said.

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