Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas has come out claiming that he was offered the position of Minister of Finance by the Gupta family in December, when Nhlanhla Nene still held the position.
“Minister of Finance. Members of the Gupta family offered me the position of Minister of Finance to replace then Minister Nene. I rejected this out of hand. The basis of my rejection of their offer is that it makes a mockery of our hard earned democracy, the trust of our people and no one apart from the President of the Republic appoints ministers. Let me also place it on record that there was no discussion between the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC Ms Jessie Duarte and myself on this matter,” revealed Jonas in a statement.
Jonas added: “I have hesitated to speak out publicly on this matter until now, but I feel it is no longer possible to remain quiet. Of primary concern to me is that this issue has a real danger of diverting attention away from the real and urgent challenges we face as a country.
“I am committed to good governance, abiding by the constitution of our country and being accountable to our people who repeatedly express their confidence and trust in us, election after election. It is this constant state of awareness and consciousness drummed into most of us throughout our service in the national democratic revolution led by the ANC that has provided us with the moral capital and tools to apply sound judgement to navigate challenges that emerge in the natural course of societal leadership. It is only through these values and moral covenants that I serve my organisation, my fellow country men and women, my beloved South Africa.”
What power do the Guptas wield?
Jonas is not the only person to come out stating that the Guptas offered him a ministerial position. Former ANC member of parliament Vytjie Mentor has made accusations that she was offered the position of Public Enterprise Minister in 2010.
According to reports, Mentor insists that President Zuma was aware of the offer made to her by the Guptas. However, she claims to have refused the position. The presidency and the Gupta family have come out denying these allegations.
These accusations against the Gupta family and the president come at a time when the country is facing a number of challenges. The economy is sluggish, with Moody’s ratings agency currently in the country to assess the possibility of a ratings downgrade. In addition, South Africa is in the midst of the worst drought in decades with food prices expected to increase in the coming months.
This news comes shortly after the Nkandla debacle which has seen Zuma finally stating that he will pay back a portion of the money spent on his private residence. Furthermore, there is controversy in National Treasury with Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan being questioned by the Hawks about the apparent ‘rogue’ unit that was established at the South African Revenue Service (SARS), as well as his attempt to ward off a credit ratings downgrade.
The latest claims by Jonas and Mentor has led to increased calls for Zuma to step down as president. The Congress of the People (COPE) as well as the Democratic Alliance (DA) have both taken to laying a charge of corruption against Zuma and the Gupta family following the allegations of Mentor.
In addition to this, the Democratic Alliance (DA) will be requesting that an Ad Hoc Committee be established to “investigate the close ties between the Gupta family and President Zuma, including their alleged involvement in the capture of State resources and their undue influence over the Executive.”