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Nene: Decision to meet Guptas at Saxonwold an error of judgement

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene an apology on Friday after revealing at the Zondo commission of inquiry this week that he visited the controversial family on numerous occasions between 2010 and 2014.

Former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has conceded that his decision to meet with the Guptas at their Saxonwold home was an error of judgement and that he's failed to live up to the ideal of being beyond reproach.

Nene issued the apology on Friday after revealing at the Zondo commission of inquiry this week that he visited the controversial family on numerous occasions between 2010 and 2014.

Nene says his visits to the Guptas at their home have cast a shadow on his conduct as a public office bearer and he deeply regrets this lapse in judgment.

“I thought it would do no harm to honour the invitation and hear him out. I had no reason to think that it would have an adverse impact.”

Nene has now asked for forgiveness. He emphasised that it’s common practice not only in South Africa but globally to attend gatherings, including dinners, at the residences of business people.

However, Nene conceded that context matters and as soon as he became aware of the controversy around the Guptas’ business dealings, he should have met them rather at his office, accompanied - as is customary - by a ministry of finance or national Treasury official.

It remains to be seen what lasting damage these revelations have done to Nene and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s drive to clean up government.

WATCH: State Capture Inquiry: Nene's testimony in 3 minutes

PIC DEAL

Nene’s Friday statement comes as investigations group amaBhungane raised questions about the minister's son being linked to a Public Investment Corporation deal while Nene was the corporation’s chairman.

Nene was the deputy Finance Minister at the time and chairperson of the PIC board when the corporation was approached by his son and his business partner, seeking support for an investment.

The PIC now has a 75% stake in S&S Refineries in Mozambique, a palm oil refinery which is yet to get off the ground.
Documents reveal that Siyabonga Nene and his business partner, Muhammad Mirza, through their company Indiafrec, approached the PIC in 2014 to fund the purchase of a stake in Mozambique’s S&S refineries.

The PIC also paid an R18 million referral fee to Mirza.

However, in the end, Nene junior was written entirely out of the deal and the PIC entered into a contract with Mirza and Mozambican businessman Momade Rasul.

Minister Nene told the Zondo commission this week that he had never acted inappropriately with regard to PIC investments and denied knowingly acting to promote funding from the corporation for any business involving his son.

The PIC also defended the deal, saying it was done on the basis of satisfactory due diligence.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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