South African Deputy Minister of Finance, Mcebisi Hubert Jonas, has today issued a statement confirming media rumours that he was approached by non-governmental members of the Gupta family and offered the position of Finance Minister, to replace then Minister Nene.
After detailing his historical commitment to South Africa’s constitution, and to the ANC (of which he has been a member since his early teens), the Deputy Minister said: “Therefore let me state the facts on the matter of whether I was approached by nongovernmental individuals in respect of the position of Minister of Finance.
“Members of the Gupta family offered me the position of Minister of Finance to replace then Minister Nene.
“I rejected this out of hand.
“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.”
Concerning rumours of Jessie Duarte being involved, Jonas said: “Let me also place it on record that there was no discussion between the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC Ms Jessie Duarte and myself on this matter.”
In the statement, issued on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, he says: “I have hesitated to speak out publicly on this matter until now, but I feel it is no longer possible to remain quiet.
“Of primary concern to me is that this issue has a real danger of diverting attention away from the real and urgent challenges we face as a country.” (See full statement below.)
UPDATE: The Gupta family has responded – read here.
In the last 24 hours the South African Presidency has released two statements claiming President Zuma has “no recollection of Ms [Vytjie] Mentor“, former chairman of parliament’s committee on public enterprises, who was allegedly also offered a position by Gupta family members.
Jonas, who was born in 1960 in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, holds a Bachelor of Arts in History & Sociology at Vista University and a Higher Diploma in Education at Rhodes University. He became active in politics from the age of 14, and spent time in exile in Angola and Uganda.
The Deputy Minister of Finance’s full statement reads:
- I have decided to respond to and clarify certain questions that have been in the
public domain recently. I do so in accordance with my conscience, my political values
and the best traditions of my organisation, the ANC, of which I have been a member
since my early teens.
- I regard our Constitution as being sacrosanct and it embraces the values that South
Africans struggled for, and what we live by. I was appointed Deputy Minister in terms
of the Constitution by the President of the Republic. Any practice that conflicts with
the prescripts of the constitution must be challenged in the interest of our democracy
and the accountability we have to our people. The ANC that we have been and
continue to be proud members of, has offered us the opportunity to serve our
country, an honour that I do not take for granted. My historical commitment to the
liberation of our people has not waned.
- My daily decisions and actions are informed by the understanding that true political
freedom will be achieved through deliberate and active management of a
transformed yet inclusive growing economy. The current economic climate presents
many risks for our country, which requires responsible leadership to avoid a fullblown
crisis. We have to unite on the key issues relating to managing the macroeconomic
risks, while urgently unlocking new sources of growth and job creation.
South Africa requires “all hands on deck”.
- The extent to which we are able to navigate the current macro-economic challenges,
restore investor confidence and rapidly stimulate growth, will depend on heightened
levels of political leadership.
- The narrative that has grown around the issue of “state capture” should be of
concern to all responsible and caring South Africans, particularly those of us who
have accepted the task to lead our people. We cannot afford to ignore the obvious
impact these sentiments may have on our country and the resultant potential of
undermining our moral authority. Neither can we afford to allow the attempts to
capture the state to divert us from dealing with the challenges that our country faces. History will judge us on the extent to which we have stayed true to the commitments we have made to our people through our public pronouncements and private conduct.
- Therefore let me state the facts on the matter of whether I was approached by nongovernmental individuals in respect of the position of Minister of Finance. Members
of the Gupta family offered me the position of Minister of Finance to replace then Minister Nene. I rejected this out of hand. 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. Let me also place
it on record that there was no discussion between the Deputy Secretary General of
the ANC Ms Jessie Duarte and myself on this matter.
- I have hesitated to speak out publicly on this matter until now, but I feel it is no longer possible to remain quiet. Of primary concern to me is that this issue has a real
danger of diverting attention away from the real and urgent challenges we face as a
- I am committed to good governance, abiding by the constitution of our country and
being accountable to our people who repeatedly express their confidence and trust in
us, election after election. It is this constant state of awareness and consciousness
drummed into most of us throughout our service in the national democratic revolution
led by the ANC, that has provided us with the moral capital and tools to apply sound
judgement to navigate challenges that emerge in the natural course of societal
leadership. It is only through these values and moral covenants that I serve my
organisation, my fellow country men and women, my beloved South Africa.
- Finally, I remain confident that the challenges that we face as a nation will be
overcome if we collectively use our efforts for the benefit of all. I am resolute in
playing my part in preserving the integrity of National Treasury as an institution in my
capacity as Deputy Minister. I’m also committed to in making my contribution towards
building a prosperous South Africa led by the glorious movement of our people, the
African National Congress.
View the statement here.