EFF writes to Mkhwebane to probe Gordhan over Gupta meetings

In his affidavit, Gordhan details how at the insistence of Tony Gupta he attended a meeting with an Indian businessman in 2010 who wanted to buy a stake in MTN.

FILE: Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan visited the Rheinmetall Denel Munition depot near Somerset West following an explosion at the plant. Picture: Cindy Archillies/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has written to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to investigate whether Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan violated the executive members' ethics code by lying to Parliament about his meetings with the Gupta family.

In a leaked sworn statement ahead of his testimony at the state capture commission next week, the Public Enterprises minister confirms meeting some of the members of the Gupta family at government and public events.

But it’s his meeting with an Indian businessman, which he confirms was arranged by one of the Gupta brothers, that has raised eyebrows.

In his affidavit, Gordhan details how at the insistence of Tony Gupta, he attended a meeting with an Indian businessman in 2010 who wanted to buy a stake in MTN.

But he says he doesn’t remember a Gupta brother being part of that meeting even though his former chief of staff and current Treasury Director-General Dondo Mogajane advised him that Ajay Gupta was present at the meeting.

The minister admits that when he replied to a Democratic Alliance parliamentary question he didn’t disclose this meeting, which he says may or may not have been attended by a Gupta brother because “at the time of submitting the reply I had no recollection of the meeting”.

The EFF is not buying this.

It says it’s absolutely impossible that Gordhan was not aware that he held a meeting with Ajay Gupta, saying “his claim of amnesia now, is opportunistic and misleading”.

The party wants the minister to be investigated for lying to Parliament.

Meanwhile, former President Jacob Zuma's meddling in decision making at ailing national carrier the South African Airways (SAA) has come to light in an affidavit submitted to the Zondo commission of inquiry probing state capture.

Gordhan says it's evident that former board chairperson Dudu Myeni had Zuma's ear and used him to help her get her way.

Ironically, Gordhan is now tasked with saving the airline which has been on the brink of financial collapse.

Gordhan is only expected to testify before the inquiry next week, but his submission was leaked to the media late on Wednesday night.

The minister said when he took over as Finance Minister for the second time in December 2015, his immediate priority was dealing with a proposed restructuring deal with Airbus that had been approved by his predecessor, Nhlanhla Nene.

The purchase of 10 A320 aircraft would be swapped for the lease of five A330-300s.

But Gordhan said Myeni wanted to change the deal to buy the planes instead.

It would have cost the airline around R603 million at the time and cause it to default on its debt repayments.

In the same month of his re-appointment, Gordhan says Zuma phoned him asking whether what Myeni wanted was doable.

Gordhan said it was clear Myeni had contacted the former President and he explained to him that the fiscus could not afford the pre-payments.

Eventually, the swap went ahead as approved by Nene.

Gordhan said prior to his appointment, progress in replacing the SAA board had been slow and a compromise was reached for Myeni to serve another year.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)