EFF’s Shivambu tried to sway me on VBS, Nene tells Zondo probe
He says he has an SMS to prove it – and also challenges the party to prove he had dealings with ‘dodgy’ people
Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene has come out guns blazing against his detractors in the EFF, inviting the party to approach the state capture inquiry with evidence of his alleged wrongdoing.
Nene also revealed that the party’s deputy president, Floyd Shivambu, sent him a text message after he was appointed in February 2018, trying to influence his decision on whether or not to place the controversial VBS Mutual Bank under curatorship.
In October 2018, when Nene initially appeared before the commission, the EFF launched a barrage of public statements which included allegations that he had a corrupt relationship with the Gupta family and that his son, Siyabongo Nene, benefited from a R900m funding deal from the Public Investment Corporation while his father sat as its board chairperson.
Nene resigned soon after his appearance when it emerged that he met the Gupta family several times despite telling the public in a previous media interview that he had not.
Now Nene is inviting the EFF to come to the commission with proof that he met “dodgy business people” during his tenure as deputy finance minister – when he also chaired the board of the Public Investment Corporation – and subsequently as finance minister. “I did not promote any funding from the PIC to any companies involving my son,” he told the commission on Thursday. “I deny all the allegations. I truly can only describe these reports and social media commentary as baseless and unfounded ... It might have been an attempt to tarnish my integrity and therefore bring my evidence before this commission into question. These attacks on treasury had started mounting even prior to that. It is common knowledge that Shivambu’s brother had benefited from the VBS matter.”
Nene said Shivambu’s text message was an attempt to “influence my decision” on VBS.
In the message, Shivambu writes: “It looks like VBS will be placed under curatorship, mainly due to something that National Treasury had not clarified in terms of the accounts of municipalities, which were withdrawn due to NT’s instruction. It becomes sad when a black owned bank gets to be placed under curatorship because of things that can be managed different. Please assist because it looks like the whole thing will need your final approval.”
The bank was placed under curatorship in 2018 after reports found that almost R2bn had been looted from the institution. Shivambu’s brother is alleged to be one of the parties that benefited from the scandal.
Nene also admitted on Thursday that he visited the Guptas about eight times, twice as minister and six times as deputy minister. He previously did not disclose exactly how many times he visited the family.
Before Nene took the stand, the commission heard testimony from former department of mineral resources treasurer-general Thibedi Ramontja, who blew the lid on the working conditions under then minister Mosebenzi Zwane in 2015.
He said he was “kept in the dark” and that Zwane’s advisers, who arrived with him when he was appointed in September 2015, took over the daily running of the department. What is significant is that a similar scene played out at the treasury when Des van Rooyen was appointed as finance boss.
Former treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile previously testified that Van Rooyen arrived with Mohamed Bobat, a known Gupta associate, who was said to have acted as a law unto himself, handing out instructions to senior officials even before the minister was sworn in.
In the case of the department of mineral resources, Ramontja named, among others, Kuben Moodley and Malcolm Mabaso as Zwane’s advisers. Both men are alleged to have a relationship with the Gupta family and their associates.
The commission will continue on Friday when lawyers representing Duduzane Zuma will cross-examine former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.