Mosebenzi Zwane faces roasting in parly

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. (Photo: Mining Indaba)
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. (Photo: Mining Indaba)

Cape Town - The DA will ask Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane if he is prepared to resign from office, following his call to probe banks for dumping doing business with the controversial Gupta family, which has ties to President Jacob Zuma.

Democratic Alliance finance spokesperson David Maynier confirmed on Tuesday that the minister faces a roasting in parliament on Wednesday.

He said National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete, agreed to a request for an urgent question to Zwane. Maynier noted, to his knowledge, this is the first time that Mbete agreed to an urgent question in this Parliament.

"I will, therefore, be putting the Minister in the political hot seat tomorrow by asking him an urgent question as follows: 'Whether, in the light of his controversial statement, dated 01 September 2016, concerning his recommendation that a Judicial Commission of Inquiry be established to investigate the termination of contractual relationships by certain financial institutions with Oakbay Investments (Pty) Ltd, the minister will resign; if so, when; if not, why not?'

Maynier alleges that Zwane allowed the Guptas to "hijack" the Executive to carry out an investigation into financial institutions, National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank.

Read: Gupta bank probe a 'political hit' on Treasury, Sarb - Maynier

"We can only hope that he saves himself the embarrassment by replying, 'yes, with immediate effect'", he said.

Zwane, who chaired an inter-ministerial committee set up by Cabinet to probe why South Africa’s banks blacklisted Gupta-owned businesses, said in a statement last week that a judicial inquiry be considered to look into:

- the current mandates of the Banking Tribunal and the Banking Ombudsman,
- consider the current Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica) and the Prevention of Combating of Corrupt Activities Act in relation to the banks' conduct,
- re-consider South Africa’s clearing bank provisions to allow for new banking licences to be issued, and
- look into the establishment of a state bank of South Africa with the possible corporatisation of the Post Bank being considered as an option.

Relating to the nation’s four biggest lenders stopping doing business with the Gupta family, Zwane said evidence shows the banks’ actions “were as a result of innuendo and potentially reckless media statements and, as a South African company, Oakbay had very little recourse to the law”.

“Looking into these mandates and strengthening them would go a long way in ensuring that, should any other South African company find itself in a similar situation, it could enjoy equal protection of the law.”

The announcement by Zwane was feared to cause further market turmoil, currency weakness and lead to a sovereign ratings downgrade.

Read: Cabinet not looking to probe banks - Presidency

However, the Presidency said on Friday that Zwane's remarks were issued in his personal capacity and not on behalf of the task team or Cabinet.

"Minister Zwane is a member of the task team. He does not speak on behalf of Cabinet and the contents of his statement do not reflect the position or views of Cabinet," the Presidency spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said.  

"The unfortunate contents of the statement and the inconvenience and confusion caused by the issuing thereof, are deeply regretted."

The Presidency also moved to quell public and investor fears.
"The Presidency wishes to assure the public, the banking sector as well as domestic and international investors of Government’s unwavering commitment to the letter and spirit of the country’s Constitution as well as in the sound fiscal and economic fundamentals that underpin our economy."

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