Nhlanhla Nene. File Picture: REUTERS
Nhlanhla Nene. File Picture: REUTERS

Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene has begged for forgiveness from South Africans after it emerged this week that he had met the controversial Gupta family.

Nene told the commission of inquiry into state capture on Wednesday that he visited Gupta offices in Midrand and their home in Saxonwold, Johannesburg between 2010 and 2014 — when he was deputy finance minister and eventually minister.

“Part of my duty as a public office bearer is to meet fellow South Africans and other stakeholders when they request to do so. However, I was wrong in meeting the Guptas at their residence and not in my office or at least a public place," Nene said in a statement on Friday, addressed to "fellow South Africans”.

“I say this being mindful of the fact that it is quite common practice, not only in SA but globally, for public office bearers to attend gatherings, including dinners, at residences of business people, fellow politicians and other stakeholders.”

He said the context around the meetings mattered, and as soon he became aware of the controversy around the family, he should have met them at his office, accompanied by a finance ministry or treasury official.

“In return for the trust and faith that you have placed on me, I owe you conduct as a public office bearer that is beyond reproach. But I am human too, I do make mistakes, including those of poor judgment. However, it is reasonable of the public to expect public office bearers to own up fully and timeously to the mistakes they make in the course of carrying out their public duties.

“I should also have disclosed early, and fully, the details of these meetings, in particular those that took place in Saxonwold. I therefore failed to live up to these ideals. These visits do cast a shadow on my conduct as a public office bearer. I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness.”

On Friday the Mail & Guardian and amaBhungane reported that Nene’s son, Siyabonga Nene, was involved in securing a Public Investment Corporation (PIC) investment while his father was still chair of the corporation.

Nene said on Friday that the state capture inquiry would investigate those allegations.

“I would encourage anyone who has evidence in this regard to hand it over to the commission. As I said on Wednesday, I stand ready to assist the commission in its investigation.”