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

Nhlanhla Nene says he wanted to step down after Jonas' revelations

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published Oct 3, 2018

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Johannesburg - Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene says he wanted to resign after he was told that he would be removed as the minister of finance, the state capture inquiry heard. 

Nene, who was giving testimony at the Zondo Commission on Wednesday,  said that he was shocked when his then deputy Mcebisi Jonas told him that he would be fired in a cabinet reshuffle. 

Jonas had held a meeting with Nene, on October 26, 2015, where he recounted his meeting with Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma and businessman Fana Hlongwane at the Gupta compound in Saxonworld. 

Nene said Jonas appeared disturbed as he told him how the eldest Gupta brother had offered him the position of finance minister along with R600 000 in cash.

"We were supposed to meet at my office but we decided to meet at his office balcony. We thought the balcony would be safer. I could see that he was a bit flustered. He informed me of an uncomfortable meeting with Mr Ajay Gupta, Fana Hlongwane and Mr Duduzane Zuma in Saxonworld," said Nene. 

"He told me that in that meeting, he was offered the position of minister in the position I was holding that of the minister of finance. He also told me that Mr Ajay Gupta offered him R600 000 in cash immediately and a further R600 million that would be deposited in a bank account offshore," he said. The finance minister said Jonas rejected Ajay's offer. 

Nene's testimony confirmed that of Jonas who gave testimony at the inquiry a few weeks ago. 

The minister said at the time, there were rumours in the media of a fresh cabinet reshuffle and he had seen that his name was included in the list of ministers who would be removed. Nene said he paid no attention to these rumours. 

But when Jonas told him that Guptas were sure that he would be removed, he contemplated resigning as he was to be fired "anyway". 

"Mr Jonas then told me that Guptas were aware of this reshuffle and that they had informed him that they were influential in the removal of certain ministers. I remember saying who are they to offer you the position of minister? I suggested to him that I should resign since I was to be fired anyway," said Nene. 

His thoughts on resigning were stopped by Jonas. Nene decided not to do so and went on with his work. 

"But Mr Jonas pointed out that I must continue to hold the line at Treasury and not give in to these threats. I was already concerned about the threats at Treasury and the intention of those behind "project spiderweb" that had been released a few months earlier," said Nene. 

Advocate Paul Pretorius questioned Nene whether the ANC held discussions about the claims made by Jonas. Nene said he did not speak to former president Jacob Zuma about the claims and his firing as it was his prerogative to reshuffle his cabinet. 

"You are minister for 24 hours not five years because our appointments are just a matter of announcement because you serve at the pleasure of the president,"  said Nene. 

The minister also told the inquiry about the Treasury's attempts to get the alleged intelligence report "project spiderweb" investigated by the State Security Agency. Nene said they heard nothing from David Mahlobo, the minister of state security, about the investigation surrounding the document. 

Project spiderweb was a document that surfaced in July 2015 and made accusations against some Treasury officials of being spies and plotting against the state. Nene said Zuma had mentioned to him that there were "apartheid spies in the Treasury" after he raised questions about a proposed oil refinery purchase by PetroSA. 

The inquiry continues. 

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