No truth to Jonas being offered position of Finance Minister - ANC

BY CHARL BOSCH - MARCH 14, 2016

The African National Congress (ANC) has blasted weekend media reports that the controversial government connected Gupta family, and ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte, had offered Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas the top position of National Treasury days before the controversial firing of Nhlanhla Nene.

This comes after the Sunday Times alleged that Jonas met with Ajay and Atul Gupta at a hotel in Sandton on 27 November, before being contacted by Duarte a few days as to whether he would be interested in taking over from Nene, who was fired by President Jacob Zuma on December 9th.

According to the paper, Jonas reportedly turned the offer down as it would have called for him to approve government’s controversial nuclear procurement programme, and replace four senior Treasury board members opposed to the idea with candidates approved by the Guptas.

Little-known ANC MP David van Rooyen was subsequently appointed as Nene’s successor, but replaced four days later by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan, after a severe backlash from opposition parties and the public saw the rand plummet to its lowest level on record against the US Dollar.

Speaking in a statement, ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the claims amounted to nothing but “gossip”, and that the party would also approach the Press Ombudsman as the paper had contravened the national press code of reporting on a subject in a truthful and accurate manner.

“In the paper's overzealousness to portray the leadership of the ANC in general, and the Deputy Secretary General in particular, as collaborators to fit the fictitious narrative of a Gupta-controlled country, the Sunday Times ignores these basic principles of the Press Code and presents as fact allegations, suppositions and rumours,” Kodwa said.

“No care is taken to corroborate the story and scant regard is given to the fact that all those being implicated by the Sunday Times in the story have roundly rejected the allegations. The Sunday Times stays true to the adage that one cannot let the truth stand in the way of a good story; as false as it may be”.

He added that Duarte, who has denied speaking to Jonas, would seek legal advice as the allegations about her were “nothing but lies”.

A spokesperson for the investment firm owned by the Guptas has also rejected the report, saying no meeting with Jonas ever took place, and that Atul Gupta was not in South Africa at the time.

“South Africa has a robust constitution and a strict process governing appointment of Ministers and Deputy Ministers. We have every faith that if anybody tried to abuse power around appointments, they would be rebuffed by our constitution and our strong political leadership,” Oakbay Investments CEO, Nazeem Howa, said in a statement.

“Oakbay Investments is 100% transparent - all numbers have been verified by one of the world’s most respected accountancy firms. We challenge the faceless purveyors of these lies to provide evidence of any of these allegations”.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Finance David Maynier has meanwhile stated that Gordhan needs to give the country the assurance that “National Treasury is Gupta-proof”, while Congress of the People (Cope) spokesperson Dennis Bloem said both Jonas and Duarte must “break their silence and tell the country the whole truth”.