Johannesburg - Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has asked for South Africans' forgiveness regarding his decision to visit the Gupta family’s businesses and their Saxonwold residence on several occasions.
Nene testified at the state capture inquiry on Wednesday that he had visited the Gupta family’s Sahara Computer offices and their residence after he was invited to do so by Ajay Gupta. The visits took place between 2010 and 2014 when he was deputy minister and after he was first appointed as finance minister.
“I was wrong in meeting the Guptas at their residence and not in my office or at least a public place. I say this being mindful of the fact that it is quite common practice, not only in South Africa but globally, for public office bearers to attend gatherings, including dinners, at residences of business people, fellow politicians, and other stakeholders,” he said.
“But context matters. 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 Guptas, at my office accompanied, as is customary, by a Ministry of Finance or National Treasury official,” said Nene.
The minister then went on to ask for forgiveness and acknowledge the expectations that the country has for its office bearers.
“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. I should also have disclosed early, and fully, the details of these meetings, in particular, those that took place in Saxonwold. 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 your forgiveness,” said Nene.
The minister said he welcomes the state capture commission’s commitment that it would investigate the allegations that he used his position as the chairman of the Public Investment Corporation to do favours for the Gupta family and his son Siyabonga Nene.
“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,” he said.
The Mail&Guardian has reported that the PIC spent millions investing in a company that was introduced to the corporation by Siyabonga Nene and his business partner Muhammad Amir Mirza.
The two had approached the PIC, through their company Indiafrec Trade and Investment, asking for the fund manager to fund the purchase of shares in a Mozambique company called S&S Refinery LDA.
At the time of the request Nhanhla Nene, Siyabonga’s father was the deputy minister of finance and as result the chairman of the PIC.