Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene will not answer allegations regarding his alleged business dealings with the controversial Gupta family at the commission of inquiry into state capture on Wednesday.
Nene’s appearance before the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — was prefaced by an assertion by advocate Paul Pretorius that the commission will not ambush the finance minister with the recent allegations contained in a Business Day report.
Pretorius said, however, that the commission will have to investigate these allegations in due course. But no witness has come forward with evidence relating to these allegations, he said.
To this, Zondo reiterated his plea to the public for witnesses to come forward with evidence.
It was expected that on Wednesday Nene would shed light on his ties with the Guptas. On Tuesday, Business Day newspaper reported that Nene had held several meetings with the family during his tenure as deputy finance minister.
During these meetings the Gupta brothers allegedly demanded Nene’s intervention in getting them in on the Public Investment Corporation deal which funded Iqbal Survé’s takeover of Independent News and Media group.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) made note of Nene’s alleged relationship with the Guptas.
The statement said what the Business Day report reveals is that throughout Nene’s tenure as finance minister, he was “captured by the Guptas and worked for them”.
The EFF questioned Nene’s refusal to answer questions it had posed to him about his relationship with the Guptas, accusing the minister of not following parliamentary rules and procedures.
“What all these developments reveal is that Nhlanhla Nene is not an honest and respectable minister we all thought he was,” the statement reads. “He is a crook who would do anything to assume a leadership responsibility, even at the expense of principles.”
Nene’s name was first raised in the commission during the course of former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas’s testimony in August. He is the first member of Cabinet to testify before the commission.
Jonas alleged that during his time as deputy finance minister he attended a clandestine meeting in October 2015 at the Saxonwold residence of the politically connected Gupta family. During the course of the meeting, Gupta patriarch, Ajay, allegedly offered Jonas the position of finance minister and a R600-million bribe in exchange for his co-operation in the family’s business affairs.
Nene was the finance minister at the time. On December 9 2015, he was fired from the position during a Cabinet reshuffle and replaced by Des Van Rooyen, who was parachuted into the job from relative obscurity.
The hearing of Nene’s testimony continues.