Wealthy family accused of controlling top S.Africa govt jobs
A senior South African politician said Wednesday he was offered the job of finance minister by an Indian family accused of wielding influence over President Jacob Zuma, in the latest scandal to rock the government.
Deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas said the offer was made by the Guptas, a wealthy family that have built up an array of companies in South Africa since moving to the country in the 1990s.
The alleged job offer occurred before Zuma sacked respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December — a shock move that triggered a collapse in the rand and massive withdrawal of foreign investment.
“Members of the Gupta family offered me the position of Minister of Finance to replace then-minister Nene. I rejected this out of hand,” Jonas said in a statement.
“The basis of my rejection of their offer is that it makes a mockery of our hard earned democracy, the trust of our people and no one apart from the President of the Republic appoints ministers.”
The statement added further fuel to allegations that the Guptas had “captured” some branches of the South African government for their own benefit.
“The narrative that has grown around the issue of ‘state capture’ should be of concern to all responsible and caring South Africans,” Jonas added.
Nene was sacked in favour of little-known David van Rooyen, who was widely seen as a weak placeman for corrupt Zuma loyalists.
The appointment of van Rooyan caused such a negative reaction from investors, banks and even in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party that Zuma sacked him after just four days.
Pravin Gordhan, who served as finance minister from 2009 to 2014, was re-appointed to try to restore confidence in the economy that has been battered by falling growth, rising inflation and high unemployment.
The Gupta family has built a string of South African companies controlled by brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh with interests in computers, mining, media and engineering.
Their supporters say they are industrious immigrant family that made it big in their adopted country, providing much-needed investment and jobs.
But their apparent influence over government has become the focus of anger against Zuma’s presidency.
The radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party have targeted the Guptas’ supposed influence over the ANC ahead of municipal elections later in the year.
Another ANC member, Vytjie Mentor, also alleged this week that she was offered a cabinet post by the Guptas — an allegation that Zuma has denied.