Lungisa Fuzile. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Lungisa Fuzile. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

The night Nhlanhla Nene was removed as finance minister in December 2015, the then Treasury director-general, Lungisa Fuzile, said he was told a "Gupta minister" had been appointed.

Nene was fired by former president Jacob Zuma on the evening of December 9 2015 and replaced with little unknown ANC backbencher Des van Rooyen. The appointment caused turmoil on the markets, wiping out approximately R500bn from the economy.

Zuma was forced to remove Van Rooyen four days after his appointment and replaced him with Pravin Gordhan for his second stint at the Treasury.

Fuzile was testifying at the state capture inquiry on Wednesday about his time at National Treasury under different ministers. 

He left the Treasury in May 2017 after Gordhan was fired, and after serving 19 years in the department.

Fuzile told the commission that on the night Nene was axed, he received a call from the ANC's head of economic transformation subcommittee, Enoch Godongwana. During the conversation, Godongwana said to him, "You are now going to get a Gupta minister who will arrive with his advisers."

Godongwana also allegedly told Fuzile that the new minister did not know his advisers as they would be given to him by the Guptas.

Fuzile said Godongwana also told him that the advisers were likely to be of "Indian descent" and would "control the minister".

"At that stage I didn't know what I know now. I kind of didn't understand what he was saying," Fuzile said.

He told the commission that Godongwana suggested that he speak to the director-general of the mineral resources department. 

Fuzile said what Godongwana was essentially telling him was that what had happened in the mineral resources department would happen in the Treasury.

Mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane has also been linked to the Gupta family. 

Fuzile said he was overwhelmed when Godongwana called him because he had just been told about Nene's firing.

He found out that the minister had been removed when he received a text message from Nene saying, "The axe has fallen".

Referring to the day before Nene was fired, Fuzile said he, the minister, current treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane and treasury budget chief Michael Sachs had attended a meeting to discuss the nuclear deal. 

"The meeting was not pleasant. Things that happened even before the meeting had suggested a treatment of Treasury and the minister of finance as not being fully part of the rest of government," Fuzile said.

When Nene testified at the state capture inquiry, he told the commission that he believed that he was fired because he would not sign off on projects such as a nuclear deal.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za