What you need to know about Mcebisi Jonas and the Guptas

Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan at the Zondo commission into state capture on Friday.
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan at the Zondo commission into state capture on Friday.
Image: Alon Skuy

Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas said he was deeply shocked‚ angered and dispirited by his interaction with the Gupta family‚ who had wanted him on their payroll.

Jonas appeared before Judge Raymond Zondo at the state capture inquiry on Friday to give a full account of the meeting he had with a Gupta brother‚ then president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane and controversial businessman Fana Hlongwane in October 2015. He said that it was at this meeting that he was offered the job of finance minister‚ along with a R600-million payout.

These are some of the things he revealed on Friday through a statement he delivered to the inquiry.

1. WHO IS WHO?

Jonas said that prior to the October 2015 meeting‚ he had never met any of the Gupta brothers.

He said he arrived at the Gupta house in Saxonwold‚ Johannesburg‚ but was not formally introduced to the man who had addressed him. He told the commission that he had figured that the man in front him was one of the Gupta brothers based on media reports he had seen.

“At the time‚ I did not know his name as he did not introduce himself‚ but simply started talking to me. I have subsequently looked at press articles which depict the various Gupta brothers. Based on these photographs‚ I am relatively certain that the Gupta brother at the meeting was Ajay Gupta‚ but I cannot exclude the possibility that it might have been Mr Rajesh Gupta.”

2. JONAS AND THE BLACKMAIL CLAIM

Jonas revealed that the Gupta family was under the impression that he was being blackmailed by Hlongwane.

“Mr Gupta opened the conversation by stating that ‘we know you’ and that he had been told that I was being blackmailed by Mr Hlongwane. I replied that this was not true.”

3. JONAS AND HIS ‘BAD BOYS’

Jonas revealed that the Guptas believed that the ANC comrades who he associated himself with were not good people. The Guptas told him that they were aware of the activities that he was involved with‚ alleging that they knew he worked closely with then ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and treasurer general Zweli Mkhize.

“He said that these activities were not good for me and these were ‘bad guys’. He expressed the view that I was part of what he referred to as a ‘thing’ within the ANC and/or government.”

4. GUPTAS MADE DUDUZANE A BILLIONAIRE

The Gupta brother said that they were behind Duduzane Zuma’s wealth.

“He pointed at Mr Duduzane Zuma and said that they had made him a billionaire and that he had bought a house in Dubai. He said that they worked closely with a number of people‚ including Lynne Brown and Brian Molefe‚ and‚ as a result‚ they were protected.”

Gupta was seemingly promising Jonas a similar lucrative lifestyle.

5. GUPTA CLAIMED EVERYTHING WAS ABOVE BOARD

Jonas said the Gupta brother had told him that all their dealings were above board.

“He was also agitated and said‚ ‘You think it is illegal?’ He said that everything that they do is legal and that they create jobs and contribute to the economy‚” said Jonas.

6. GUPTAS WANTED MORE MONEY

The Gupta brother had revealed to Jonas that the family was raking in billions through their business dealings in South Africa.

“He said that at the moment ‘we’ - which I understood to be the Gupta family - earn about R6-billion from the fiscus through various entities including Eskom‚ Transnet and other government departments. He said they wanted to increase this amount to R8-billion and that they thought that I could be helpful in this regard. Mr Gupta said that they had determined that the National Treasury was a stumbling block for their growth and that they wanted to ‘clean up Treasury’‚” said Jonas.

Jonas said the “cleaning of Treasury” involved plans to make him finance minister‚ after which he would need to remove director general Lungisa Fuzile‚ the head of tax. He would also have been required to remove the financial sector policy head‚ Ismail Momoniat‚ deputy director general Andrew Donaldson and the chief procurement officer‚ Kenneth Brown.

8. WHO JONAS CONFIDED IN

Following this disturbing meeting‚ Jonas confided in then ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize and ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa.

“Dr Mkhize indicated that he was shocked and advised that he noted my concerns regarding the matter‚ including in respect of the role of Mr Duduzane Zuma‚” said Jonas.

Duduzane had reportedly orchestrated the meeting between Jonas and the Gupta family.

Jonas said that Kodwa had “agreed that I should make a statement explaining what had happened”.

9. JONAS HAD NO FAITH IN THE POLICE

After his meeting at Saxonwold‚ Jonas said that he had little hope that he would get assistance from the police.

“At this point in time‚ I did not see any point in reporting the matter to either the police or the Hawks‚ as I believed that these institutions were seriously compromised and I saw no reasonable prospect of this matter being properly and fairly investigated.

“This was both at a general level - by then‚ former president Zuma had secured a loyal intelligence and security apparatus by weeding out most of the experienced and technical capability in the various institutions - and at a personal level - given the threatening statement made by Mr Gupta during the course of the meeting.” -  TimesLIVE

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