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By Genevieve Quintal and Fadia Salie
Cape Town – The Guptas have denied that any family member ever met with Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, following reports that he was offered Nhlanhla Nene’s job weeks before 9/12.
“To be absolutely clear: there was no meeting between any member of the Gupta family with Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas at all,” said Oakbay Investments, the holding company for the Gupta family’s businesses and the family’s mouthpiece.
Their reaction follows a Financial Times report claiming that the Gupta family met with Jonas a few weeks before Nene was removed as finance minister, offering him the job. Jonas, however, reportedly turned them down.”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,” Oakbay said in an emailed response.
“There have been an extraordinary number of allegations around the Gupta family in recent weeks, several of which have involved the Finance Ministry.
“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,” the investment holding company said.
The National Treasury earlier on Thursday simply responded with “no comment” to questions regarding the report.
Shortly after the supposed meeting, President Jacob Zuma removed Nene from the finance minister post and replaced him with ANC backbencher Des van Rooyen.
When News24 contacted the deputy minister’s office for comment, questions were referred to Treasury’s media office.
The Financial Times also reported that the Guptas had denied that they asked Jonas if he wanted the job at the meeting held at the family home.
This is not the first time the Gupta family, who are said to have strong ties with Zuma and other ANC leaders and ministers, has been accused of trying to influence key appointments in government.
It is understood that even some within the ruling party are concerned about the influence the family wields.
The London-based Africa Confidential reported last month that Van Rooyen arrived at his new position as finance minister with two unnamed “advisers”. The two were named as “Gupta allies” Mohamed Bobat and Ian Whitley.
During a Cabinet reshuffle last year, Zuma replaced mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi with MP Mosebenzi Zwane, who is said to have ties to the Gupta family. Ramatlhodi was moved into the late Collins Chabane’s portfolio of Public Service and Administration.
Zwane reportedly played a role in the private jet carrying guests to a Gupta wedding in Sun City, which landed at Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2013. And when he was Free State agriculture MEC his department reportedly introduced a multimillion-rand dairy project in the province, also with ties to the family. He reportedly also played a role in Glencore selling its Optimum mine to a company owned by the Guptas and Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma.
Opposition parties on Thursday voiced their dissent and called on Jonas to speak out. The Democratic Alliance on Thursday called on Jonas to break his silence and publicly clarify whether he met with the Gupta family to discuss the position of finance minister.
The Congress of the People (Cope) said it was extremely disturbed about the reports of an alleged stranglehold and the alleged influence of the Gupta family on government.
‘Capture of the state’
“It will not help to sit in our little corners moaning and complaining about the capture of the state. We need to stand up and do something against this perceived threat that is becoming bigger and more dangerous by the day,” Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said on Thursday.
“The fact that Des van Rooyen knew about his new appointment a month before he was sworn into office indicates that many shadowy dealings had begun to take place months before the axing,” said Bloem.
Cope urged opposition parties to join together to demand an immediate probe into Bobat and Whitley, and said that in its view Jonas also needs to be probed.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said South Africa has been turned into a “Gupta Republic”.
“It is important to ensure that the Guptas abide by the rules and regulations of capital taxation and withdrawal from the country,” the EFF said.
The EFF said it has written letters to all relevant authorities – including the South African Revenue Service commissioner, the minister of finance, the governor of the SA Reserve Bank and the director of financial intelligence – to coordinate an investigation into possible irregularities and including any role Zuma might have played. – Fin24
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