Controversial businessman Fana Hlongwane, who was embroiled in the arms deal scandal and has been fingered as the “fixer” who took Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas to meet members of the Gupta family last year, is disputing Jonas’ claim that he was offered the ministerial position.
The Citizen has published below a copy of a leaked letter written by Hlongwane to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, in which he admits to initiating the meeting, convened by President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, at the Hyatt hotel in Rosebank, Joburg.
In the letter, in which he implies that Jonas lied, Hlongwane says the meeting was to sort out issues between himself and Jonas, whom he describes as a friend and business partner. But Hlongwane vehemently denies the Guptas offered the post of finance minister to Jonas.
In the letter received by the Public Protector’s office on September 30, Hlongwane undertakes to “give an accurate and truthful” version of events and adds: “During the discussion, a Gupta family member entered the room briefly and then left. I categorically deny there was ever a discussion or offer, by anybody, of any governmental position to Deputy Finance Minister Jonas.”
Hlongwane also warns Madonsela not to be manipulated to further the agenda of one ANC faction or another.
“I make this submission fully aware that politics and factionalism are at play in the ANC and I am happy to explain that if you [Madonsela] deem it necessary. I must make the point that state organs should not be used to settle political problems, especially chapter 9 institutions such as the public protector.
“Please do not let yourself be manipulated to further the agenda of one faction or another.”
Explaining their relationship, Hlongwane says Jonas was a “regular at my home and is very well known by my family and my staff. His team were regulars at my residence, too. Clever people can authenticate this with technology.”
Despite this, Hlongwane says Duduzane Zuma had made him aware that Jonas had made statements to the effect “that I was blackmailing him. I asked Duduzane Zuma to urgently convene a meeting between the three of us”.
Hlongwane adds that Zuma convened the meeting at the Rosebank Hyatt and it then moved to a private venue. But he denies the position of minister of finance was offered to Jonas by the Guptas at that particular meeting.
Speaking on behalf of Jonas, National Treasury spokesperson Yolisa Tyantsi said Jonas had presented his account of events to the public protector and if Hlongwane had also done so “we cannot comment to the media” as it would be similar to responding to a matter before the courts.
The public protector’s spokesperson, Oupa Segwale, referred questions to Kgalalelo Masibi, who said she would attend to The Citizen’s enquiry. But no response was received before going to print. Duduzane Zuma and Hlongwane were also not available for comment.
In March, Jonas made headlines when he revealed members of the Gupta family offered him the job of finance minister just days before the president axed then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with ANC MP Des van Rooyen.
Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor also claimed Gupta representatives had offered her a ministerial post. The allegations by Mentor and Jonas are part of the “state capture” claims Madonsela is investigating. It is alleged the Gupta family used their friendship with Zuma for profit and influence.
It was reported at the time that Hlongwane arranged the meeting attended by Duduzane at a hotel where Jonas was offered the finance minister post while Nene was still in office.
At the meeting, a Gupta family member allegedly told Jonas they would like him to replace Nene. He was apparently given a list of people to get rid of at Treasury, including director-general Fuzile Lungisa and top officials Ismail Momoniat, Andrew Donaldson and Kenneth Brown.