Nedbank CEO Mike Brown told the Zondo commission following his meeting with the ANC, he did not feel pressured to reopen the Gupta family's bank accounts. Picture: ALON SKUY
Nedbank CEO Mike Brown told the Zondo commission following his meeting with the ANC, he did not feel pressured to reopen the Gupta family's bank accounts. Picture: ALON SKUY

The testimony by witnesses from SA’s major banks has pointed to former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane as the key player fighting against a decision to close the Gupta family’s bank accounts.

Nedbank group CEO Mike Brown told the state capture inquiry on Wednesday that he had met with Zwane after a request from the interministerial committee, which was set up by cabinet in 2016 to engage the banks after the closure of Gupta-linked bank accounts.

The Guptas, former president Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane are at the centre of the state capture web.

Brown said Zwane had directly appealed to the bank to “step in and save jobs” by reopening the closed company accounts, stressing that family members had stepped down from these companies.

Like Standard Bank’s Ian Sinton, Brown also testified that Zwane had made a seemingly veiled threat about the banks being dependent on government for the banking licences they need to operate.

FNB and Absa declined to meet with the committee.

According to Brown, Zwane was the only minister at the meeting, with an adviser representing labour minister Mildred Oliphant. Zwane at the time was mineral resources minister and had no say in the running of SA’s financial institutions or legislation. However, in a bizarre move, he was appointed chair of the interministerial body.

Zwane, who was also accused of travelling to Zurich to assist the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma in negotiations with Glencore regarding their purchase of Optimum mine, was removed from cabinet by President Cyril Ramaphosa in February. However, he remains an MP and a member of the ANC’s highest decision-making body, the national executive committee.

The state capture inquiry has given Zwane notice that he has been implicated in testimony given to the commission. He has not yet contacted the commission indicating whether he would want to cross-examine any of the witnesses.

Zwane told Business Day that he did not want to comment on evidence against him “at this stage”. “Let me keep my view to myself for now … I’ve made enough news.”

He also declined to comment on whether he would seek to cross-examine any of the bank witnesses.

Brown told the commission that when he had received the invitation, he debated whether he should attend the meeting, but decided that he would attend as an engaged corporate citizen who could give input. He had made it clear that he would not make statements or reference to the Gupta accounts specifically.

However, he said Zwane raised the issue of the closing of the Gupta accounts.

The Nedbank CEO said he felt Zwane was putting pressure on the bank to keep the Gupta accounts open.

“I left the meeting with the impression that a good outcome for the [interministerial committee] would be for Nedbank to agree to take over the primary transactor of the Gupta accounts.”

Brown also testified about a meeting that Nedbank held with the ANC following a request by the party’s head of economic transformation, Enoch Godongwana, after the decision to close the accounts.

Present at this meeting at the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters were then secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and his deputy, Jessie Duarte.

Brown said his notes did not show that Godongwana was there, but according to his recollection, he was.

By contrast to his interaction with Zwane and the committee, Brown said he did not feel that the senior members of the ANC — who he met with prior to the meeting — were trying to pressure Nedbank into reopening the Gupta accounts.