No chopping block for Zwane, just a reprimand

Minister of Minerals and Resources Mosebenzi Zwane. (Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg)
Minister of Minerals and Resources Mosebenzi Zwane. (Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg)

Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma said on Monday that he has reprimanded Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane for issuing a statement on behalf of Cabinet recommending an inquiry into South Africa’s banks.

Zuma’s reprimand is a far cry from Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier’s plea to the president on September 3: “The minister’s head should be on the ‘chopping block’ and the axe should be allowed to fall, without delay.”

Zuma’s latest utterance was contained in written replies to Parliament and was an answer to a question from Maynier regarding Zwane’s “rogue” bank statement on September 1.

In the statement, Zwane announced that the inter-ministerial committee set up by Cabinet to probe why South Africa’s banks blacklisted Gupta-owned businesses recommended that a judicial inquiry be set up.

READ: Guptas' blacklisting pushes committee to seek judicial inquiry into banks

“Evidence presented to the IMC (inter-ministerial committee) suggested that all of South Africa’s economic power vests in the hands of very specific institutions, institutions who have shown that their ability to act unilaterally is within their mandate and is protected,” said Zwane.

Zuma, who was in China for the G20 Hangzhou Summit when the statement was made, said Zwane had made the statement in his personal capacity and did not reflect the view of Cabinet.

Being in China when the statement was released would have been an embarrassment for Zuma, as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has a significant stake in Standard Bank and China is a major trade partner of South Africa.

“The unfortunate contents of the statement and the inconvenience and confusion caused by the issuing thereof, are deeply regretted,” Zuma said in the statement while in China.

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

On Monday, Zuma reiterated his disapproval of Zwane’s statement after Maynier asked the president why Zwane’s statement differed from Cabinet and what action has been taken against him.

While opposition parties called on Zuma to fire Zwane for the statement, the president said in his Parliamentary written reply on Monday that: “I reprimanded the minister for the statement.

“I am not in the position to answer why Minister Zwane in his reply on September 22 2016 said that he was not speaking in his personal capacity,” said Zuma. “The question in this regard must be directed to the minister.”

Maynier: Why did Zuma not table reprimand in Parliament?

In response, Maynier said he wants to get to the bottom of why Zuma failed to make any public statement following the reprimand of the minister.

In a statement released on Monday, Maynier said he wants to know whether the reprimand included a “letter of reprimand” and if it did, why the “letter of reprimand” was not tabled in Parliament.

"After all, the 'letters of reprimand', sent to ministers implicated in the Nkandla scandal, were tabled in Parliament," he said. "I will, therefore, submit a further parliamentary question to President Jacob Zuma probing all the particulars of his secret reprimand of the minister for his role in calling for the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry into the termination of financial services to Oakbay Investments

"In the end, what President Jacob Zuma should have done was to fire the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, who behaves less like a minister, acting in the public interest, than a' hired gun', acting in the private interest of his most important clients: the Guptas."

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