The Gupta family, friends of President Jacob Zuma, employers of his son Duduzane and alleged captors of key state institutions have now been linked to at least three offers of ministerial posts – leaving Zuma politically exposed and the ruling ANC seething.
Late on Wednesday, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas ended days of speculation when he admitted that he was offered the post of finance minister to replace his then boss Nhlanhla Nene, who was about to be sacked by Zuma.
Jonas’s admission follows that of Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, who on Monday dropped a bombshell when she revealed that she was offered a top ministerial job by the Guptas at their Saxonwold home in Joburg, while Zuma sat in the next room.
Detailing his encounter with the Guptas, Jonas said: “Therefore let me state the facts, members of the Gupta family offered me the position of finance minister 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 and the trust of our people, and no one apart from the president of the Republic appoints ministers,” Jonas said.
He, however, dismissed media reports that ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte also made a similar offer to him.
Jonas said he initially preferred to remain mum on the matter but later broke his silence because of national imperatives.
“I feel it is no longer possible to remain quiet. Of primary concern to me is that this issue has a real danger of diverting attention away from the real and urgent challenges we face as a country.”
He said the narrative that has grown around “state capture” should be of concern to all responsible and caring South Africans, particularly those who have accepted the task to lead.
Jonas’s revelations will ratchet up the tension in the ruling party as its top leadership gather for a national executive meeting this weekend.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the party could “no longer sit quietly in the face of these allegations because they erode the prerogative authority of the president and of the government”.
Jonas’s motives for speaking out now will also come under increased scrutiny, as backroom jockeying and outright backstabbing take hold of the ANC ahead of its elective conference next year.
Some senior party figures allege Jonas’s move is part of a pre-emptive strike against Zuma, who was poised to remove Jonas from the Finance Ministry in another cabinet reshuffle expected before the end of this month. These figures said Jonas’s removal would be reprisal for his failure to co-operate with Zuma and the Guptas’ plan to remove Nene in December, which scuppered ambitious plans for a total takeover of the Treasury.
Jonas was not available for comment on Wednesday night.
On Wednesday, Gupta family spokesman Gary Naidoo denied Jonas’s claims, saying in a statement that “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,” the statement said.
“We challenge Minister Jonas to provide a full account of the supposed meeting that took place, under oath, in a court of law.”
In the statement, the family went on to attack Jonas’s integrity.
“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,” the statement said.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Jonas’s admission showed that the country was not run by Zuma.
Maimane said he would be tabling a motion that an ad hoc committee be set up to investigate the extent of the Guptas’ involvement.
EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu said the party was not surprised by Jonas’s revelations. “The Guptas are running the affairs of government under Zuma.”
The EFF said the family posed a threat to the country’s sovereignty.
“The Guptas have effectively undermined and rendered the votes of the people of South Africa and the democratic system useless. It also demonstrates that the ANC and Zuma have voluntarily handed over the political decision making of the country to a single family, the Guptas, which in itself is direct threat to the sovereignty and national security of the country.”
The party had earlier indicated that it would not participate in President Jacob Zuma’s quarterly question-and-answer session in the National Assembly on Thursday.[Source: The Star/ANA]