Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene prepares to testify at the state capture inquiry. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Former state security minister David Mahlobo and former Dirco Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane were hostile towards Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene when he refused to push through the nuclear deal. 

Nene told the Zondo commission that former president Jacob Zuma had expressed his unhappiness with him and appeared hostile that not much had been done to ensure finalisation of the nuclear deal. 

"I indicated to the president that in the absence of a plan on the financing of the project it may be difficult to make progress with the matter," said Nene.

"The tone of the meeting felt very tense and hostile towards me. The president criticised me for not finalising the financial aspects of the nuclear deal. He was unhappy I was not doing what I supposed to have done a long time ago so that he could have something to present when he meets with Russian President Putin for their one on one meeting," he said. 

Nene said his concerns around the nuclear project stemmed from the massive cost and that it would have huge implications for the country's economy. 

"The costs associated with it were astronomical. The envisaged 9.6 GW programme would have constituted the largest investment project in SA history. The investment required would have been estimated at R200 billion for a phased approach," said Nene. 

Former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson had presented a letter to Nene which she wanted him to sign. Nene said it would have given a guarantee to the Russian government on South Africa's willingness on the nuclear project. 

Nene refused to sign the letter. 

"Minister Pettersson had a letter ready for me to consider and sign. In the letter addressed to the Russian authorities, I recall it was essentially providing a form of guarantee to the Russian government on the nuclear project. I was reluctant to sign as it would be a binding financial commitment from the SA government," he said. 

"I told her to revise the letter but she was not satisfied with my response but agreed to change it so it would not have financial commitments. She brought another revised letter but that one still had a financial commitment and I rejected the letter again," he said. 

Nene recalled that Pettersson was concerned about his decision not to sign the letter and what she would tell president Zuma. 

"She was concerned about what she is going to present to the president. I could see she wanted to see a positive response from the president," said Nene. 

The minister said he faced hostility from colleagues in Cabinet, specifically from Mahlobo and Nkoana-Mashabane. 

"The attitude of some of my colleagues especially the Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and the Minister of State Security David Mahlobo. They were very hostile and they actually wanted me to sign and they felt it was not right that the issues of the nuclear deal had not been finalized."

"I stood my ground because I knew it was correct for me not to pen my signature if the due processes were not followed. My colleagues failed to understand the implications of my signature as the minister of finance on issues that would be binding to the government. I was responsible for ensuring the proper accounting, transparency, sound and efficient management of the country's finances and future financial commitment," said Nene. 

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