South Africa’s Finance Minister reveals why former President Zuma sacked him

South Africa’s Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has revealed former President Jacob Zuma’s reason for sacking him in 2015. When Zuma sacked the minister in 2015, both the rand and the people of South Africa reacted with a protest.

Nene, who was giving testimony at a judicial inquiry into influence-peddling on Wednesday said Zuma fired him for refusing to approve contracts that would financially benefit the infamous Gupta family. The former president had in 2016 attempted to stop then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela from publishing a report of an investigation relating to the dismissal and appointment of cabinet ministers and board members and directors of state-owned companies, as well as possible corrupt influence in the awarding of state contracts and licenses to companies linked to the family. Zuma had always insisted that his relationship with the Guptas was nothing more than friendship and the only business dealings are with his son. It was this relationship with the Guptas, among other things that made Zuma sink after surviving several impeachment attempts and denying allegations he colluded with the Gupta family to inappropriately divert state funds.

Nene is not the first government official to speak publicly about the influence the Guptas wielded in Zuma’s government. His deputy under Zuma, Mcebisi Jonas claimed in 2016 he was offered the finance minister job by the Guptas shortly before Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene.

Zola Tsotsi, who resigned as chairman of state utility, Eskom, in 2015 also told local newspaper the Mail & Guardian that his exit was plotted by the Gupta family.

“Two months after the appointment they called me and said they will have me fired because I am not playing the game. I was forced to resign shortly after that,” Tsotsi said.

Nene told the judicial inquiry that the main reason he was sacked was that he rejected a proposed plan to build a fleet of nuclear power plants, a project that could have cost up to $100 billion. Zuma had gone ahead with his nuclear power plans post-Nene despite criticisms, but Ramaphosa reversed both decisions. Not only did he recall Nene, he also dumped the nuclear plan.

South Africa recently signed an extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates to send home those who are faced with corruption charges that have sought refuge in their country. The treaty is widely believed to be targeted at the Gupta brothers who are wanted on charges of fraud and corruption in relation to the Estina dairy project in Vrede‚ Free State province of South Africa.

The Guptas are believed to be hiding either in Dubai, where they own properties and businesses or their home country, India.