Mzwanele Manyi. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES
Mzwanele Manyi. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

Senior Standard Bank officials queried why Mzwanele Manyi‚ who later took over the Gupta family’s media empire‚ was attending a meeting about the bank shutting down their accounts.

"We asked on what basis he was attending and we were told that he was an adviser to the minister‚" said Standard Bank’s Ian Sinton‚ who was testifying before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Monday.

He described how he and Standard Bank CEO Sim Tshabalala had attended an inter-ministerial committee meeting‚ chaired by then mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane and attended by then labour minister Mildred Oliphant. He believed the meeting was aimed at persuading SA’s four major banks to reverse their decisions to close Gupta accounts.

He said Manyi had attended the entire meeting.

Sinton said Zwane had told those assembled that the committee had been appointed by the cabinet‚ and he had been appointed by then president Jacob Zuma to lead it.

"We understood the purpose of the meeting to be the closure of the Gupta bank accounts‚" Sinton said.

As they had during an earlier meeting with the ANC‚ Sinton said‚ Standard Bank had sought to explain the legal prescripts that had underpinned its decision

He said those attending the meeting had then raised concerns about the potential 7‚500 job losses that could ensue‚ should the Gupta accounts be closed‚ and suggested such job losses — and their impact on families and dependents of employees — should be considered by the banks.

"They said‚ well‚ surely if it’s a contest between the well-being of the dependents or compliance with the law‚ we should keep the accounts open so that the dependents could be paid at the risk of non-compliance with the law‚" Sinton said.

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"We said we wouldn’t accept that‚ we wouldn’t accept that we would knowingly break the law in order to ameliorate the consequences of the closure on employees.

"They then suggested that the banks should not be allowed to close bank accounts altogether‚ ie they said that they have the power to change the law and that they would consider recommending making changes to the law.

"Minister Zwane said that‚ as a member of the ruling party‚ he had the ability to get the law changed‚ and he was trying to propose a change to the law whereby it would become illegal for banks to close accounts in these circumstances."

Sinton said Standard Bank‚ as it had been during a meeting with the ANC‚ was asked to respond to claims that it had colluded with the other banks to shut down Gupta accounts and was part of a "white monopoly capital" campaign to destroy black business.

The bank had denied both these accusations.

"Towards the end of the meeting‚ they reminded us that as a bank we operated under a licence granted by government and they suggested we should be more responsive to concerns that they were raising on behalf of government. Mr Zwane said that‚ it was his position.

"We said as far as we are concerned‚ we comply with all the laws of the land."

Subsequent to that meeting‚ Zwane had released a statement claiming that the cabinet had resolved to initiate an inquiry into allegations that these banks and audit firm KPMG had "colluded" to cut ties with the Guptas. Zuma later released a statement‚ claiming that Zwane had issued this statement "in his personal capacity".

Zwane has never explained why he issued this statement in this way.

He has yet to indicate whether he will seek to cross-examine any of the witnesses against him.

The inquiry continues on Tuesday.