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Nene ‘squeaky clean’ image tarnished

Appearing before the Zondo commission on Wednesday, finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s reputation has taken a hit.

Nhlanhla Nene took over as South Africa’s finance minister as a safe pair of hands to help restore confidence after years of scandal and alleged corruption under former President Jacob Zuma. On Wednesday, his reputation took a hit.

Nene, testifying before an anti-graft commission, revealed that he’d met repeatedly with members of the Gupta family, who are accused of being in a corrupt relationship with Zuma known as “state capture” — including at their home in the Johannesburg suburb of Saxonwold. That marked a notable shift from previous statements to a local broadcaster that he only encountered the Guptas in passing at public gatherings.

“You begin to doubt his testimony because he’s changing his tune on something that is very material, bumping into people and now having been to their residence,” said Ralph Mathekga, a Johannesburg-based independent political analyst. “I don’t think it is enough to remove him, but I do think it is important to allow for an investigation.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s successor, reappointed Nene as finance minister in February as part of drive to rid South Africa of corruption that’s brought changes at the top management of state-owned companies and attract $100 billion in investment to stoke an economy in recession.

Mr Clean

“He was brought in as Mr Squeaky Clean; I’m afraid that picture of Mr Squeaky Clean is no longer intact,” Mathekga said.

Nene, 59, has come under pressure to resign from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party because it said he refused to answer its questions in May about his relationship with the family, who are Zuma’s friends and have been in business with his son, Duduzane.

He first served as finance minister until December 2015, when Zuma fired him, causing a plunge in the rand and bonds. Nene told the inquiry that he was dismissed because he wouldn’t sign off on a Zuma pet project: a multibillion dollar Russian nuclear power deal.

“I stood my ground because I knew it was correct not to append my signature,” he said.

But prior to Wednesday’s testimony to the commission, which is headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, he refrained from detailing any substantial meetings with the Guptas.

In a 2016 interview with Johannesburg-based broadcaster eNCA, he said: “I bumped into them at public gatherings once or twice, but I’ve never had any engagement and I’ve never been asked by them to do anything for them.”

Gupta meetings

That changed when he came before the inquiry.

Nene said he visited the Gupta’s home in the Johannesburg suburb of Saxonwold four times as deputy minister, and regarded the meetings as one of his tasks to “engage with different stakeholders in the economy.”

The encounters were short, initially to discuss the economy and then to talk about a contribution to a Gupta-owned magazine, he said in a statement to the commission. Duduzane Zuma was at the home “most times,” but they didn’t speak.

He also visited the Guptas offices in 2013, before the start of the family’s ANN7 television channel.

“I think his responses were enough to create doubt on the narrative that he may have also been corrupt,” said Ongama Mtimka, a political science lecturer at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. “He has done well to try and actually say, look there’s room to actually investigate further and not take things at face value.”

The Guptas, who have left the country, and Zuma deny any wrongdoing.

Mcebisi Jonas, who was Nene’s deputy at the time, told the commission the Guptas offered him a bribe to take over the finance minister post, which he declined, and threatened to kill him if he spoke of the proposal.

Read more on Jonas’s testimony to the anti-graft inquiry

Other witnesses at the commission have implicated the Guptas in plundering billions of rand from South Africa’s coffers with the tacit assent of the president and law-enforcement agencies.

“The whole saga is unfortunate because one question that he has not really answered is why he kept quiet when the revelations were coming out around state capture,” Mtimka said. “I felt that he failed to say ‘me too’.”

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

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“Prior to Wednesday’s testimony he refrained from detailing any substantial meetings…”
Given the justified Gupta-hysteria in SA, this isn’t a problem. It’s ONLY if he overstepped the mark at these meetings (even at their house) such as taking a bribe, for instance, that there is a problem. An investigation might be the answer to clear his name. What a pity though if he’s investigated while we’re in recession with rand volatility because newspaper headlines take over and his focus on SA’s finances will be compromised.

Quoting Nene: “I bumped into them at public gatherings once or twice, but I’ve never had any engagement and I’ve never been asked by them to do anything for them.”
He says he became suspicious of the Guptas with their OFS dairy farm project. That’s when he placed distance between himself and them.

no problem….just give all the kick backs you received…. halve your’e salary…not to much asked and image spick and span again.

I have not had the opportunity to study both Jonas and Nene’s testimonies.

I am not sure that Nene has disclosed what has been going on in Treasury as much as Jonas mentioned.

Makes a person wonder if there is more corruption than we will ever get to know?

Pro…Can CR also be subpoenaed to testify or do you think what he hides/knows will be devastating to SA.

In my eyesNene is still is “good” guy for refusing to sign the nuke deal. He paid a price of being fired and having his reputation being tarnished for being fired.

There are other big fish that are roaming freely and had direct consequences to allow state capture happening. Those big 6 on the ANC are the main culprits. The did noting when all these glaring actions was being orchestrated.

Zupta783 needs to called in front of the commission now that his name keeps cropping up. He’s never, ever been called to account. But I’ve no doubt that if summoned, he’d start his interdict/appeal/re-appeal/representations strategy all over again in an effort to avoid giving evidence….which in fact would indicate his complicity and guilt.

No such thing as a squeaky clean politician. Period.

spot on: Bearing in mind what we see are the ANC,s best (top of the heap), so one shudders to think what is coming next . Clueless uneducated Cadres simply ripping RSA Apart like crazed weasels !

Just for LOL – A little girl as her father “Daddy do all fairy tales begin with Once upon a time?” and he replied, “No, there is a whole series of fairy tales that begin with “If elected I promise…”

Nene is a hero that survived in a pit of vipers. Zuma has so little grasp of arithmetic that he could not figure out how many zeros it would take to destroy a country. Nor did her care.

Epiphany. It is this easy comrades (in the ANC). Find a camp and just position (market) yourself as anti-corruption,they’ll bite and then you are sorted in life. It’s this easy. Nene and Jonas as well as Mandonsela are clear examples.

Jonas said no to R600m, that is not positioning yourself as anti-corruption that is being anti-corruption. I really do not want to know what one needs to do in your eyes to qualify as anti-corruption. Stick a burning poker in your eye maybe?

Really think your view is very cynical. Person is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t in your eyes.

Well Jonas is a perfect example. Gets confronted with R600m goes home and thinks it probably would be difficult to explain the wealth. Doesn’t go to the Police or Media, chooses a camp (Gordhan) and then there he is today, becoming bigshot executive. Same with Nene, same with Madonsela.

Predict the camp that’s gonna win at the end and then roll with it you win.

This is one of the good guys, did he maybe make some poor choices? Possibly, but he stuck to his guns when it mattered – not signing off on nuclear.

There are individuals with far worse backgrounds that are in more powerfull positions than Nene – especially Mabuza and Ace.

Do not fall into the trap of following the EFFs lead on this. Their true colours starting to show.

So, let me get this straight, because there are worse characters in the ANC, we must just let Nene slide. That’s not going to work. What we need in SA is more standards, not less.

Much better article on DM, very one sided sensationalist approach here

“What was clear throughout Nene’s five-hour-long testimony was that he was often isolated in his resistance to Zuma’s big-spending ways and that fear was a factor of his life and that of other leaders who would not play the capture games.”

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