Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene on Friday apologised for not disclosing early and fully the details of his meetings with the controversial Gupta family, saying he realised his visits to their Saxonwold compound cast a shadow on his conduct as a public office bearer.
“I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness,” he said in a statement.
In the statement, Nene concedes that he had been wrong for meeting the Guptas at their residence and not at his office or at a public place.
“As soon as I became aware of the controversy swirling around the family’s business dealings, I should, subject to there being a legitimate reason for doing so, have met the Guptas at my office, accompanied, as is customary, by a Ministry of Finance or National Treasury official.”
The minister said the trust bestowed on him by the country’s citizenry as a public office bearer means his conduct should be beyond reproach.
“But I am human too, I do make mistakes, including those of poor judgement. However, it is reasonable of the public to expect public office bearers to own up fully and timeously to the mistakes they make in the course of carrying out their public duties,” the statement reads.
Nene added that his disclosure of the full details of his meetings with the Guptas, in particular those convened at Saxonwold. should have come at an early stage.
“I, therefore, failed to live up to these ideals. These visits do cast a shadow on my conduct as a public office bearer. I deeply regret these lapses and beg for your forgiveness.
“On the allegations currently in circulation about me and my family, I am glad that the commission of inquiry into state capture has undertaken to investigate them.
“I would encourage anyone who has evidence in this regard to hand it over to the commission. As I said on Wednesday, I stand ready to assist the commission in its investigation.”
During his testimony at the commission on Wednesday, a clip was repeated on eNCA showing Nene seemingly caught lying about his links to the controversial family.
In the clip, the minister claims that while he was deputy finance minister or finance minister he only ever saw the Guptas at public gatherings, and has never been invited to any “engagements” with the brothers widely believed to have played a role in capturing the South African state.
This contradicted his evidence at the commission of inquiry into state capture on Wednesday, where he told the inquiry’s chairperson Justice Raymond Zondo that he had met with the family four times between 2010 and 2013, while he was indeed deputy minister of finance.