Mcebisi Jonas faces tough questions to determine whether there is any truth to the claim that the Gupta family wanted to bribe him to accept an offer to become finance minister, at the Zondo commission of inquiry investigating state capture on August 24 2018. Picture: ALON SKUY
Mcebisi Jonas faces tough questions to determine whether there is any truth to the claim that the Gupta family wanted to bribe him to accept an offer to become finance minister, at the Zondo commission of inquiry investigating state capture on August 24 2018. Picture: ALON SKUY

Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was fired by former president Jacob Zuma from the position in December 2015 because he refused to give in to the nuclear deal, former finance deputy minister Mcebisi Jonas says.

Jonas started his testimony to the state capture commission of inquiry on Friday.

He described in fine detail how the Guptas offered him the post of finance minister in a meeting facilitated by businessman Fana Hlongwane and Zuma’s son, Duduzane.

Jonas was told by Ajay Gupta in the meeting where he offered him the job that they saw National Treasury as a "stumbling block", and that they would require of him when he was made finance minister to remove Lungisa Fuzile, Treasury director-general at the time, as well as the procurement chief at the time, Kenneth Brown, current deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat, and Andrew Donaldson, a former deputy director-general.

Jonas also described the period between the meeting — where he refused a R600m bribe — and Nene’s removal in December as one of "the most intense periods" in SA’s democratic history, as they were "trying to hold the line" in Treasury, while it was clear the cabinet and the presidency harboured "huge hostility" towards it.

"The pressure from the president and other cabinet members on the nuclear deal was immense," Jonas said.

Nene standing up to it was the "the trigger that saw him fired", Jonas said.

Jonas told the commission that he did not see the point in reporting the meeting to the police and the Hawks, as he believed the institutions were "properly compromised".

Jonas said Ajay Gupta had told him just before he left the Guptas’ Saxonwold residence that he would be killed if he spoke out about the meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, in which Hlongwane and Duduzane Zuma was silent, according to Jonas, Gupta had told him "you must understand we are in control of everything".

Jonas said Gupta then referred as an example to the NPA, and the elite investigating unit the Hawks, and said "the old man (Zuma) will do everything we tell him to do".

Jonas was finally axed on the same day as then finance minister Pravin Gordhan, in March 2017.

Jonas said there was no formality in how they were removed.

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