JOHANNESBURG, October 5 – Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene on Friday apologised for not disclosing early and fully the details of his meetings with the controversial Gupta family, saying he realised his visits to their Saxonwold compound cast a shadow on his conduct as a public office bearer.
“I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness,” he said in a statement. “As soon as I became aware of the controversy swirling around the family’s business dealings, I should, subject to there being a legitimate reason for doing so, have met Guptas, at my office accompanied, as is customary, by a Ministry of Finance or National Treasury official.”
Nene gave testimony to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture earlier this week, saying he was fired by former president Jacob Zuma for refusing to ”toe the line” and do the bidding of the Guptas, personal friends of Zuma.
During the hearing on Wednesday, Nene rejected charges by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) that he had facilitated the Guptas’ access to funding at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) when he was deputy finance minister and chairman of the state entity.
On Friday, Nene said his visits to the Guptas took place from 2010 to 2014, when he was deputy minister and minister of Finance respectively.
“I was wrong in meeting the Guptas at their residence and not in my office or at least a public place,” he said.
“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. But I am human too, I do make mistakes, including those of poor judgment.”
He said he was glad that the Commission, which is probing allegations of graft by government officials and executives from state companies under Zuma’s leadership, was looking into allegations of his involvement and that of his family.
“I would encourage anyone who has evidence in this regard to hand it over to the Commission. As I said on Wednesday, I stand ready to assist the Commission in its investigation,” said Nene.
The EFF demanded that the finance minister resign immediately after his Wednesday testimony.
Zuma, who was replaced as president by Cyril Ramaphosa in February, has denied his relationship with the Guptas was corrupt. (ANA)