Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene is in the firing line following explosive allegations that, as chair of the Public Investment Corporation, he benefited his son’s business by establishing and financing it using PIC funds.
Amid calls for him to resign and for the Public Protector to investigate him, Nene has apologised to South Africans for being “human” and making “mistakes” due to “poor judgment”.
Nene sent out a press release today over his testimony to the commission investigating the extent of state capture in South Africa.
He told the commission that he had met with the Guptas at their home several times.
Before he was due to testify, rumours started circulating that, as chair of the Public Investment Corporation, he benefited his son’s business by establishing and financing it using PIC funds.
Nene’s press statement did not directly address the accusations that the PIC, under his leadership, funded his son Siyabonga Nene’s business, Indiafrec Trade & Invest (Pty) Ltd’s, interests in Mozambique.
Nene merely says: “On the allegations currently in circulation about me and my family, I am glad that the commission of inquiry into state capture has undertaken to investigate them”.
The minister also encouraged anyone who has evidence contrary to what he has maintained to hand it over to the commission.
Nene also emphasised that he was only too happy to assist the state capture inquiry in its investigation.
The minister, however, admitted to “poor judgement” with regards to his numerous meetings with members of the Gupta family, saying – in retrospect – as much as it was part of his duties as a public office bearer “to meet fellow South Africans and other stakeholders when they request to do so”, he had come to the realisation that it was in poor judgment to meet “the Guptas at their residence and not in my office”.
“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. 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 the Guptas, at my office accompanied, as is customary, by a ministry of finance or national treasury official,” Nene admitted.
The apologetic Nene also added that in return for the trust and faith that South Africans placed on him, he owed them conduct as a public office bearer that is beyond reproach, but maintained that he was “human too”, made “mistakes, including those of poor judgment”.
The minister said that he understood why the public expected office bearers to own up fully and timeously to their mistakes.
In not doing this Nene admitted to having failed to live up to ideals expected of a public office bearer.
“These visits do cast a shadow on my conduct as a public office bearer. I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness,” Nene said.
The DA’s shadow minister of finance, David Maynier, called on the Public Protector to investigate the allegations that Nene unduly influenced the PIC’s investment in his son’s business.
The Economic Freedom Fighters, who were the first to accuse Nene of benefiting both his son and wife while he was at the PIC, welcomed the revelations published across numerous media platforms.
“While he continues to deny any wrongdoing, it is become apparent and evident that Nhlanhla Nene is nothing close to the squeaky clean and corrupt-free minster he was portrayed to be by certain media platforms,” said EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
The EFF called for Nene’s resignation, saying there were many more skeletons in his closet that were yet to be uncovered.