Presidency: Minister Zwane's Gupta bank probe comments 'unfortunate, regretted'

Mosebenzi Zwane’s statement came amid increasing tensions between Zuma’s government, the National Treasury and the central bank. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Mosebenzi Zwane’s statement came amid increasing tensions between Zuma’s government, the National Treasury and the central bank. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Comments by a minister saying the Cabinet has called for a judicial review to consider creating a state bank and probe the mandates of lender oversight bodies are “unfortunate,” “regretted,” and don’t represent the government’s views, the presidency said.

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane issued a statement Thursday saying the Cabinet had approved recommendations by a committee he chaired that was set up to probe the nation’s four biggest lenders after they said they would stop doing business with a family, the Guptas, that has ties with President Jacob Zuma.

Zwane’s statement was “issued in his personal capacity and not on behalf of the task team or Cabinet”, the presidency said in an emailed statement on Friday. The information does “not reflect the position or views of Cabinet, the presidency or government. The unfortunate contents of the statement and the inconvenience and confusion caused by the issuing thereof, are deeply regretted.”

The Cabinet set up an inter-ministerial committee to look into the banks’ decision to sever ties with Oakbay Investments, owned by the Gupta family, which is in business with the president’s son.

Zwane’s statement came amid increasing tensions between Zuma’s government, the national treasury and the central bank, with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan under police investigation for setting up an allegedly illicit surveillance unit when he led the tax agency. Zwane, who previously called on the banks to resume doing business with the Guptas, has suggested to the cabinet that it withdraw the central bank’s authority to license lenders and make it the responsibility of the finance minister, Business Day newspaper reported on Wednesday.

“The presidency wishes to assure the public, the banking sector as well as domestic and international investors of government’s unwavering commitment to the letter and spirit of the country’s constitution as well as in the sound fiscal and economic fundamentals that underpin our economy,” the presidency said. – Bloomberg

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