Despite having met the notorious Gupta family multiple times, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene claims his hands are clean.
Nene yesterday made his second appearance before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture since his resignation from Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet, to rubbish as “baseless” several allegations against him and his family.
These include allegations that:
- His son Siyabonga and business associates benefitted from an oil deal funded by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) on which he served as nonexecutive board chairperson during his tenure as deputy finance minister.
- His wife, according to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), has offshore accounts in Dubai and in Switzerland where proceeds of alleged corruptly attained monies are stashed.
- As deputy finance minister and PIC chair, he was allegedly captured by the Guptas and worked for them.
- He negotiated business deals for the Guptas and “bullied” those who sought money from the PIC, submitting to the demands of the family.
- He worked with the Guptas and only stopped taking their calls when he became finance minister.
Cross-examined by commission evidence leader Paul Pretorius on an array of allegations, which featured prominently in the media ahead of his first appearance before the commission last October, Nene put on a brave face before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, denying as “untrue” and “unsubstantiated” all the claims.
This is despite eight questionable visits he paid to the Guptas at their Saxonwold family compound – two as minister and six as deputy.
Asked by Pretorius why he resigned as finance minister and made a public apology to the nation after contradicting himself during a television interview on whether he ever visited the Guptas, Nene said he stepped downed to “retain the integrity of the office of minister of finance”.
“After my appearance in that eNCA television interview where I denied ever visiting the Guptas, I thought the office I occupied as minister of finance should be beyond reproach. I felt it was inappropriate of me to have done what I did – not having been honest. I took an easy way out by not being honest in answering the question,” he said.
“I then issued an apology to the nation and felt I should rather vacate the position to make it easy for the president.”
Nene said President Cyril Ramaphosa accepted his resignation “with a heavy heart” .
He said he found it difficult to decline a string of invitations from the Guptas, due to their deep friendship with former president Jacob Zuma.
“The family were friends with the president and I found it hard to antagonise them,” said Nene.
Asked by Zondo to explain the nature of the visits, Nene explained: “It was an error of judgment on my side because I did not want to pass judgment on people based on media reports.
“The Guptas never asked me to do anything for them. Topics discussed ranged from the economy to me contributing a piece in one of their publications – The Thinker.”
Nene denied accepting any gifts from the Guptas during the visits, or doing the family any favours in obtaining government tenders.
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, who blew the lid on how the Guptas offered him R600 million if he accepted the post of minister of finance, today takes the stand.