Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene revealed on Wednesday that Former President Jacob Zuma sacked him because he refused to approve contracts that would financially benefit the infamous Gupta family, but he angered South Africans and made some question whether he is the man they took him to be when he also revealed that he met the Gupta family at their residence. As a result, the minister apologized to South Africans in a statement on Friday.
The minister, Wednesday, testified at the ongoing Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, during which he said he had made visits to the Gupta family’s businesses in Midrand as well as their residence in Saxonwold, Johannesburg between 2010 and 2014.
“Part of my duty as a public office bearer is to meet fellow South Africans and other stakeholders when they request to do so. However, 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. But context matters,” the statement read.
Nene said as soon as he became aware of controversies surrounding the family’s business dealings, he ensured that the meetings happened at his offices in the presence of either a Ministry of Finance or National Treasury official and only met them for legitimate reasons.
“In return for the trust and faith that you have placed on me, I owe you conduct as a public office bearer that is beyond reproach,” he said.
The Minister said he was human and made made mistakes, including those of poor judgment. He admitted to not disclosing the full details of his meetings with the Guptas early enough, adding that the visits cast a shadow on his conduct as a public office holder.
“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 therefore failed to live up to these ideals,” Nene stated.
The minister also encouraged anyone with evidence against him with regards to allegations that he exerted undue influence, currently being investigated by the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, to come forward with same.
“As I said on Wednesday, I stand ready to assist the Commission in its investigation.”
A report by Amabhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism on Friday had looked into Nene’s alleged involvement in a deal involving his son and an oil refinery in Mozambique, making Democratic Alliance (DA) Member of Parliament (MP) David Maynier request the Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane to investigate.
Opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters had also alleged that the minister had links with the Guptas.