REVEALED: How Nene also had hush-hush Gupta meetings
Finance minister to tell state capture commission all about his meetings to discuss a PIC deal
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene held several meetings with the Guptas during his first term and, before that, he also met them when he was deputy minister, where the notorious businessmen demanded his intervention in the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) deal with Iqbal Surve’s Sekunjalo Investment Holdings.
Nene will for the first time own up to interactions with the Guptas when he testifies at the state capture commission on Wednesday.
It is understood the Guptas summoned Nene to a number of meetings when he was deputy minister of finance and chairperson of the PIC after Surve rebuffed their attempts to buy a stake in the Independent News and Media group.
In February 2013 the Sekunjalo group won the bid to buy Independent Media from its Irish owners for R2bn, some of which Surve raised from the PIC. Initial discussions between Surve and the Guptas led them to believe they would have a stake in the deal. However, Surve said he could not include the Guptas in the consortium, as the PIC objected to changes in the shareholding.
The Guptas then repeatedly met with Nene, trying to convince him to pressure the PIC to include them on the deal. Nene appears to not have acted on their requests, as the matter was still hanging after the 2014 elections when he became the minister of finance.
It is believed the Guptas had at least two meetings with Nene while he was finance minister on the issue. At this time, Mcebisi Jonas was deputy minister of finance and became chairperson of the PIC.
Jonas shut down the issue.
Nene has kept silent on this matter, even after he was fired by former president Jacob Zuma in December 2015. According to sources at the national Treasury, he did not confide with his colleagues or officials about the meetings.
During the presidency budget vote earlier this year, EFF leader Julius Malema claimed Nene was “corrupt as hell”, questioning whether he had met with dubious business people and had intervened on their behalf.
Malema said he had written to Nene asking who had proposed his name for the position of deputy minister of finance and later the ministerial position. Malema claimed to have the details of meetings between Nene and these businesspeople, whom he did not name.
“So it’s not the type of guy we think he is. He’s extremely dangerous, and when this information comes, you will all be shocked that he is corrupt as hell,” Malema said.
Nene did not respond to Malema’s allegations, but will have to come clean about his interactions with the Guptas following allegations about his impropriety at the PIC arising on the eve of his appearance at the Zondo commission. A text message has been circulating purporting to be details of a story to be published by investigative unit amaBhungane about Nene.
The message claims his son Siya Nene’s oil company acquired funding from the PIC during the period he was the chairperson. It also claims Nene is linked to the Guptas and “instrumental in funding many of their business deals”.
Stefaans Brummer and Sam Sole, amaBhungane’s editors, said on Twitter they had not leaked the information, but did not deny they were investigating the matter.
One of the people behind the distribution of the message is Yusha Duarte, the son of ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte.
Insiders at the PIC claim there was no conflict of interest, but Nene will have to disclose to Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo his involvement in the matter and allegations about improper relations with the Guptas, including whether they were involved in his appointments at the Treasury. Nene’s evidence at the commission was meant to centre on the circumstances of his sudden dismissal as minister in December 2015 and the tensions between the national Treasury and Zuma over the R1.6-trillion nuclear build programme.
Nene was fired on the day the deal was approved by cabinet after he and former Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile fiercely opposed it, arguing it was unaffordable. The day before the deal was approved, Zuma apparently accused the Treasury of being an obstacle to his projects.
This stemmed from former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, Nene and Fuzile also opposing Zuma’s repeated attempts to have the Treasury issue a guarantee of between R18bn and R20bn for PetroSA to purchase a controlling stake in Engen. Nene had also clashed with Zuma’s close friend and former South African Airways chairperson, Dudu Myeni, over her demands for the purchase of aircraft from Airbus.