SA economy hasn’t recovered from Nene's axing, Jonas tells state capture inquiry

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

Former Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas told the Zondo Commission of Inquiry on Friday that the economy has not recovered since former President Jacob Zuma fired then Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015.

Nene was re-appointed as finance minister after President Cyril Ramaphosa took office in February this year.

Jonas testified that the rand "tumbled" and "weakened quite substantially", business confidence was lost and the move "dashed the country’s credit ratings".

"It also created a downward path for the country economically… I don’t think we’ve since recovered from that," he told the commission probing allegations of state capture in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Jonas earlier testified that a member of the Gupta family offered him R600m to take the top ministry post and threatened to kill him if he spoke of the offer.

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, who formerly headed up Treasury and was fired together with Jonas in March 2017, sat in the audience during the testimony.

He hailed Jonas' testimony at the judicial inquiry into state capture as "extremely brave".

Jonas said were it not for Gordhan’s appointment as finance minister after Nene’s firing in December 2015, Treasury "could have been in a worse position".

He told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that the removal of Nene and his replacement with little known ANC MP Des Van Rooyen knocked the moral at Treasury "quite substantially".

Van Rooyen only lasted four days - including a weekend - in the position, before he was replaced by Gordhan. 

Jonas said even after Gordhan’s appointment amidst pressure on Zuma by business and ANC leaders, the "functionality of Treasury [was] badly knocked, and the minister of finance became "increasingly isolated in government business".

Since Gordhan’s removal by Zuma in March 2017, the country has been downgraded by all three major ratings agencies and has struggled to ignite economic growth, while public debt climbed with revenue collection targets missed.

Jonas testified that at the heart of the attempts to capture the Treasury was the multi-billion-rand nuclear deal which he maintained the country could not afford. He testified that Nene was fired in 2015 because of his opposition to the R1trn nuclear deal. 

News24 reported that Jonas delivered bombshell after bombshell on Friday while he was guiding Deputy Chief Justice Ray Zondo through the chronology of events of state capture as he experienced it.

He told the commission that Ajay Gupta threatened to kill him should any details of the infamous meeting between him, Jonas, Duduzane Zuma (the son of former president Jacob Zuma) and businessman Fana Hlongwane ever become public.

The inquiry continues.

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