A report in the Sunday Times has alleged that the politically connected Gupta family wanted to “capture” the Treasury by appointing a new head, and sacking as many as four employees who apposed the nuclear procurement programme.
The Sunday Times reported that influential family – who have strong business links with president Jacob Zuma – allegedly met with deputy minister of finance, Mcebisi Jonas, to offer him then-finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s job.
The paper cited highly placed sources for its information.
It said that Jonas met with the Guptas at a Sandton hotel on November, while he was also reportedly offered the post several days later, by ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte.
Duarte denied the allegation, Treasury refused to comment, and the Guptas through an attorney said: “As we have said countless times, our primary focus is on business, not politics. To be absolutely clear: there was no meeting at all, let alone any inferences or cash offers.”
Deputy minister Jonas turned the offers down, after it was alleged that it came with the following conditions:
- to push for the approval of the nuclear procurement programme; and
- clear certain employees from the top of the Treasury
It is alleged that he was given a list of people to get rid of, including director-general Fuzile Lungisa, Ismail Momoniat, Andrew Donaldson and Kenneth Brown – the fiercest critics of the nuclear procurement programme.
Firing them, sources said, would have allowed the family to “capture” the Treasury, as the four vacancies would have been filled by bureaucrats approved by the Guptas.
Under Nene, the Treasury had opposed the construction of a proposed six to eight nuclear power stations, saying the project was unaffordable.
The Guptas are reportedly trying to benefit from the project, which experts believe could cost R1 trillion, through their company Shiva Uranium.
Last week, the Financial Times also reported that the Guptas met with Jonas to ask him if he wanted to become minister.
The paper reported that Jonas turned down the offer, leading to president Zuma sacking then finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, and replacing him with back-bencher, Des van Rooyen.
“There have been an extraordinary number of allegations around the Gupta family in recent weeks, several of which have involved the finance ministry,” a Gupta family spokesman told the FT. “To be absolutely clear: there was no meeting at all.”
The Treasury and Mr Jonas declined to comment, neither denying nor confirming the existence of the meeting, the paper said.
The full article can be found in the Sunday Times 13 March edition.