Mines minister Zwane urged Nedbank to retain Guptas as clients

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Nedbank has said Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane urged the lender to reconsider its decision to sever ties with companies tied to the Gupta family, who are friends of President Jacob Zuma and in business with his son.

Nedbank, in a letter to Oakbay Investments dated April 7, said a continued relationship with the Gupta-controlled company would “create material business risks that could pose significant reputational risks,” according to an affidavit filed in the Pretoria High Court by chief executive Mike Brown on Monday. It gave the company 30 days to find alternative bankers.

After the country’s four biggest banks closed their accounts earlier this year, the Guptas asked Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to intervene. Gordhan went to court in October seeking an order stating that he can’t prevent banks from cutting clients. The lenders, including Standard Bank, Barclays Africa and FirstRand Ltd have said they agree with Gordhan’s stance. Nedbank has to consider international banking rules on anti-money laundering, bribery and corruption when dealing with customers, Brown said in the court papers.

Terminate accounts
Brown agreed to meet Zwane in May as the minister had been appointed to head an inter-ministerial committee that also included Gordhan and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to probe why the banks stopped doing business with the Guptas. Zwane told Brown that the finance and labour ministers were aware of the meeting and had mandated him to proceed in their absence.

The meeting included Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and Mzwanele Manyi, an adviser to Muthambi and a former government spokesperson, according to an email from the committee secretary that was attached to the affidavit. The e-mail also claimed that Oliphant attended the meeting when she hadn’t, Brown said.

“The overall impression I came away with was that the purpose of the meeting was to determine whether there was a co-ordinated decision among the major South African banks to terminate the accounts of persons affiliated with the Gupta family,” Brown said, “and whether Nedbank would consider engaging with the relevant entities as their primary banker.”

Zwane’s spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment.

Zuma “reprimanded” Zwane after the minister issued a statement in September that Cabinet had decided to set up a judicial investigation into the country’s banking industry following the decision to close the Guptas’ accounts. The presidency said on September 2 the statement was issued in Zwane’s personal capacity and didn’t reflect the views of Cabinet. – Bloomberg

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