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How Guptas asked Jonas to 'work with us'

2016-03-16 18:11

"The old man wants to make you finance minister," deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas was told at the Gupta family mansion in Saxonwold.

He had first been invited to a coffee date with Duduzane Zuma who acted as the family's emissary ahead of Nhlanhla Nene's axing on December 9.  

Zuma Junior had asked Jonas if he could meet with presidential emissaries. Curious, he agreed.

A stunned Jonas listened as two of the Gupta brothers told him that if he agreed to "work with us", he would be enriched. "We'll fix you up," he was told.

The family said they would provide staff for him, and that he should get rid of certain senior Treasury staff who the Sunday Times named as director general Fuzile Lungisa, tax and financial sector policy head Ismail Momoniat, technical advisory sector head Andrew Donaldson, and chief procurement officer Kenneth Brown.

City Press met Jonas three weeks ago. He confirmed the information we had from three sources which was that he had received the approach from the Guptas.  We could not publish until he spoke out on record which he has now done.  

In a statement released by the Treasury on Wednesday, Jonas said: "Members of the Gupta family offered me the position of Minister of Finance to replace then-Minister Nene. I rejected this out of hand. The basis of my rejection of their offer is that it makes a mockery of our hard earned democracy, the trust of our people and no one apart from the President of the Republic appoints ministers."

But shortly after Jonas' statement was released, the Gupta family issued a strongly worded response, again denying that they had offered him the job. 

A Gupta family spokesperson said: “These latest allegations are just more political point scoring between rival factions within the ANC. To be clear: any suggestion that the Gupta family or any of our representatives or associates have offered anyone a job in government is totally false. 

“We challenge Minister Jonas to provide a full account of the supposed meeting that took place, under oath, in a court of law. Minister Jonas is attempting to cover up and divert attention away from his own relationships and practices. We are confident questions about his own ethical standards will be exposed.
 
“We will not provide any further running commentary on what is now just a politically-motivated campaign against us.”

When put to the Presidency, officials denied that the Guptas were acting on the President's say-so. A senior official said people always used President Zuma's name in vain.  

The Guptas are maintaining their denial.

After the news was broken by the Financial Times of London last week, Oakbay Investments, the holding company for the Guptas' family businesses, said in an emailed statement to Fin24: "To be absolutely clear, there was no meeting between any member of the Gupta family with deputy minister Mcebisi Jonas at all.

"As we have said countless times, our primary focus is on business, not politics. We challenge the faceless purveyors of these lies to provide evidence of any of these allegations.

"South Africa has a robust Constitution and a strict process governing appointment of ministers and deputy ministers. We have every faith that if anybody tried to abuse power around appointments, they would be rebuffed by our Constitution and our strong political leadership."

Presidency spokesperson Bongani Majola told the Sunday Times that only Zuma had the power to appoint ministers or their deputies. 

Although the Sunday Times reported that ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte had also offered Jonas the ministerial job, Jonas denies this in the statement.

"Let me also place on record that there was no discussion between [Duarte] and myself on this matter," he said.

Statement from the Gupta family:

Statement by Deputy Minister Jonas

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December 10 2017