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Questions raised over Nhlanhla Nene’s son's possible dealings with Gupta family

This week, Nene denied any wrongdoing at the state capture inquiry.

A video screengrab shows former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene giving testimony at the state capture commission of inquiry on 3 October 2018. Picture: SABC Digital News/youtube.com

JOHANNESBURG – Questions have been raised about whether Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene's son had any dealings with the Gupta family.

The Mail & Guardian is reporting on Friday morning that Siyabonga Nene and a little-known business partner Amir Mirza approached the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) regarding an investment while his father was deputy Finance Minister and chair of the PIC.

This week, Nene denied any wrongdoing at the state capture inquiry.

Journalist Sabelo Skiti explains the essence of this story.

“It looks at a transaction that was proposed by a company in which Minister Nene’s son, Siyabonga, is a partner and director, with the PIC at the time when Minister Nene was deputy Finance Minister and chairperson of the PIC, as well as the time when he then becomes finance minister.”

NENE’S TESTIMONY

Nene has made shocking revelations about his meetings with the Gupta family at their Saxonworld compound, saying he regarded those visits as one of his tasks as deputy minister.

Nene, who became the first Cabinet minister to testify at the state capture commission on Wednesday, also told the inquiry he believes he was fired by former President Jacob Zuma in 2015 because he refused to approve projects, such as the nuclear programme that benefited the Guptas.

He also denied allegations that while he was deputy Finance Minister and chair of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), he improperly negotiated funding for the Gupta family's business and his son's oil company.

This is what Nene told eNCA in 2016 when he was asked about his relationship with the Guptas.

“I bumped into them during public gatherings, but I’ve never had an engagement and I’ve never been asked by them to do anything for them.”

But he’s now told the state capture commission he visited the family’s house on four occasions and interacted with Ajay Gupta who initially invited him for tea.

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

He admits that he still visited Saxonworld even after he became suspicious of the family’s intentions in 2013. This was after Treasury realised through its investigation, that the Guptas were involved in the Estina dairy farm scandal.

“Look I thought I should not be influenced by just the investigation, which had not been concluded.”

Nene says he didn’t discuss government business in his interactions with the Guptas, adding the visits were short and that he always took his protectors with.

FAILED DEAL

Nene has told the state capture commission that Ajay Gupta tried to get him to intervene in a failed deal between the family and businessman Iqbal Survé.

The Business Day reported on Tuesday that the Gupta family previously demanded Nene’s intervention to get them in on the PIC deal that funded Survé’s takeover of the Independent News and media group.

Nene has confirmed that in one of his visits to the Gupta family’s Saxonworld compound, Ajay Gupta raised issues with him about the PIC’s funding to Survé.

“He wanted to know from me whether it would be correct that the agreement that Mr Survé has with the PIC precluded him from entering into a partnership with the Guptas."

Nene says he clarified to Ajay Gupta that the PIC wouldn’t interfere in prior agreements the family had with Survé.

“Beyond that, my humble request was that if he had further queries, he must raise that with the PIC.”

Despite this testimony, Nene says at no point did he feel pressured by the Gupta family during his visits to Saxonworld to discuss government business.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)

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