Jonas said to decline Finance Minister post

Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas. (Pic: Gallo Images)
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas. (Pic: Gallo Images)

Mcebisi Jonas declined an offer from President Cyril Ramaphosa to become finance minister in place of embattled Nhlanhla Nene, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Jonas, a former deputy finance minister, was offered the post on Monday, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorised to comment. Jonas didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone.

Nene, who was appointed to his post in February after Ramaphosa became president, is under pressure to quit after he revealed last week that he met members of the controversial Gupta family at their home six times. That contradicted comments he made in a 2016 television interview that he’d only interacted with them briefly at social events.

Nene asked Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties this weekend, the Johannesburg-based Business Day newspaper reported on Monday, without saying how it got the information. Nene has apologised for his conduct and he denies having granted anyone preferential treatment or favours.

The Guptas, who were friends with former president Jacob Zuma and in business with his son, were implicated by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in wielding undue influence over government appointments and the awarding of state contracts - allegations they and Zuma deny. Zuma ruled for almost nine years before the governing ANC forced him to quit in February and replaced him with his 65-year-old deputy and party leader, Ramaphosa.

Jonas told a judicial panel last month that Ajay Gupta offered him the post of finance minister and a R600m bribe in exchange for business concessions. Jonas said he had refused, and was warned he would be killed if he spoke of the proposal. Ajay Gupta said in an affidavit that he’d never met with Jonas and the accusation was an “intentional fabrication”.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko didn’t respond to calls or an email seeking comment. Ramaphosa declined to answer reporters’ questions about Nene at the release of a new postal stamp at his Cape Town office on Tuesday.

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