Jonas confirms Guptas offered him Finance Minster job

BY CHARL BOSCH - MARCH 16, 2016

Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas has admitted to allegations by The Sunday Times, that he was offered the position of finance minister by members of the Gupta family, weeks before the controversial firing of Nhlanhla Nene in December last year.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, Jonas said he could no longer remain mum on the allegations, as it threatened to diverge from the real problems faced by ordinary South Africans.

“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,” Jonas said.

“We cannot afford to ignore the obvious impact these sentiments may have on our country and the resultant potential of undermining our moral authority. Neither can we afford to allow the attempts to capture the state to divert us from dealing with the challenges that our country faces”.

He however rejected the paper’s claim that African National Congress (ANC) Deputy Secretly General, Jessie Duarte, had telephoned him days later with the same offer, adding that he remains resolute in “preserving the integrity of National Treasury as an institution in my capacity as Deputy Minister”.

“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,” he continued.

“It is only through these values and moral covenants that I serve my organisation, my fellow country men and women, my beloved South Africa”.

A spokesperson for the Guptas has meanwhile rubbished Jonas’ claims that he ever met with them, saying the Deputy Minister must provide a full account while under oath to the courts.

“Any suggestion that the Gupta family or any of our representatives or associates have offered anyone a job in government is totally false,” the spokesperson said.

“Minister Jonas is attempting to cover up and divert attention away from his own relationships and practices. We are confident questions about his own ethical standards will be exposed. We will not provide any further running commentary on what is now just a politically-motivated campaign against us.”

Jonas’ confession comes two days former Portfolio Chairperson for Public Works, Vytjie Mentor, revealed in a post on Facebook that the family had offered her the position of Public Enterprises Minister shortly after the dismissal of Barbara Hogan in 2010.

She also alleged that Zuma had been present in another room of the family’s home in the upmarket suburb of Saxonworld in Johannesburg when she rejected the offer, a claim The Presidency later rejected due to Zuma having no recollection of who she was.

“I chaired the ANC national parliamentary caucus when Zuma was a Deputy President. I sat with him in the ANC's Political Committee each month. He is the one [who] was sent by the Top 6 then to tell me that the ANC has [deployed] me to be the Chair of Caucus then. He is the one who introduced me to the ANC Caucus then as a new Chair of Caucus,” Mentor wrote in a follow-up post on Wednesday afternoon.

“I had a bi-[monthly meeting] with him in his Tuynhuis Offices. He knew me right from when he arrived from exile. He met me frequently on the ground in the Northern Cape on many occasions. As for the Guptas, I am not done yet [there] still a lot needs to be told… will leave it there for now”.

No comment from the Presidency has yet been made following Jonas’ announcement.