South Africa 13.12.2016 11:20 am

Muthambi, Manyi met with Nedbank over closure of Guptas’ accounts

FILE PICTURE: Public Service and Administration Minister, Faith Muthambi. Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Liza van Deventer.

FILE PICTURE: Public Service and Administration Minister, Faith Muthambi. Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Liza van Deventer.

This is despite the minister and former Cabinet spokesperson not being appointed to a committee that was tasked with the matter.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and former government spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi were reportedly part of an interministerial committee delegation set up by Cabinet earlier this year to probe the closure of the Guptas’ bank accounts by the country’s four major banks.

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BusinessLIVE reported on Tuesday that Nedbank chief executive Mike Brown revealed that the pair, known to be staunch supporters of President Jacob Zuma, were part of the Cabinet team he met to discuss the closure of the accounts, in spite of not being appointed to the committee by Cabinet.

In an affidavit supporting Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s high court application seeking a declaratory order that ministers cannot intervene in the relationship between banks and their clients, Brown detailed the meeting between Nedbank and the committee.

Gordhan’s affidavit included an email in which Brown’s personal assistant requested the names and titles of the government officials who had attended the meeting on May 6. The list of names included Muthambi and Manyi, and a second adviser, Sandile Nene, according to the news website.

Brown in his affidavit said Zwane had assured him that the purpose of meeting was “not to represent any particular family or company”, but about the potential job losses that could result from the closure of the accounts. He claimed that the minister had suggested Nedbank consider stepping in to “save jobs” considering that members of the Gupta family had resigned from the companies.

“The overall impressions I came away with was that the purpose of the meeting was to determine whether there was a coordinated decision amongst the major South African banks to terminate the accounts of persons affiliated with the Gupta family, and whether Nedbank would consider engaging with the relevant entities as their primary banker,” Brown said.

Nedbank supports Gordhan’s application because it believes that if the government were allowed to intervene in such matters, it would have “severe prejudicial consequences” for banks and for South Africa in general.

Manyi, who apparently ran a campaign in support of the Gupta family, reportedly attended the meeting in his capacity as an “adviser” to Muthambi. His involvement raised questions about the purpose of the committee, which Gordhan refused to participate in despite being called to the team along with Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.

On Tuesday morning, Manyi responded to the story on Twitter, saying it was “not factual”.

The Nedbank CEO in his affidavit also disputed claims by the secretary of the committee that Oliphant attended the meeting. Gordhan is also said to not have attended the meeting.

In September, Zwane falsely announced that Cabinet had resolved to establish an inquiry into the country’s banking sector and whether there had been any fault on the part of the finance ministry for the decision by the banks sever ties with the controversial family.

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela in her State of Capture report found that Zwane could have acted unlawfully in helping to negotiate the sale of the Optimum coal mine to the Gupta’s Tegeta Exploration, in which the president’s son, Duduzane Zuma, holds a sizeable stake.

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“It is potentially unlawful for the minister to use his official position of authority to unfairly and unduly influence a contract for a friend or in this instance his boss’s son at the expense of the state,” she said.

During his last oral responses to MPs in the National Assembly last month, Zuma said he found it suspicious how the banks decided to “simultaneously” close the Guptas’ accounts.

“If a number of banks act in the same way simultaneously, not one bank, not two banks, including some financial institutions, to any ordinary person, that is not an ordinary act.

“It suggests that there is something. The banks can’t act together in the same manner, in the same way. It gives a feeling that there is something going on here,” he said.

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