Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: SOWETAN
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: SOWETAN

The Guptas’ Oakbay Investments wanted the ANC to put pressure on the country’s big four banks to reopen their accounts.

That is according to former ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who led a party delegation that met with the banks in 2016 after the closure of the accounts.

Mantashe was testifying at the state-capture commission on Tuesday in response to testimony by Absa, Standard Bank, Nedbank and First National Bank.

He is the first ANC leader to appear before the commission.

The banks were called to meetings at the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters in Johannesburg by Mantashe, his deputy Jessie Duarte and head of the economic transformation subcommittee Enoch Godongwana. FNB was the only bank that did not meet  the ANC officials.

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe is testifying on behalf of the party at the the state capture inquiry on November 27 2018.

From February to September 2016, the four banks closed the bank accounts of the Gupta family and their companies. The family was seen as politically exposed.

Altogether R7bn in “suspicious and unusual” transactions involving Gupta family members and their companies were reported to the Financial Intelligence Centre.

Mantashe said Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa wrote to tell him how closure of the bank accounts would affect jobs.

He said Oakbay wanted the ANC to join its campaign to get the accounts reopened. The party was willing to listen to Oakbay, but did not take a decision on the spot.

The ANC officials met with Oakbay twice before meeting the banks. Mantashe said the closure of the accounts was a topical matter in the public domain and there were “pressure points” for the party.

Pressure came from Oakbay regarding  job losses and secondly from black business, particularly the Black Business Council, claiming that the closures could set a dangerous precedent for black business.

“We took a decision that we can’t deal with this issue from one angle, we need to get the view of the banks,” Mantashe said. After meetings with the banks, a report was submitted to the ANC national working committee and  then taken to the national executive committee.

Mantashe said an NEC meeting adopted the report and resolved that the decision taken by  ANC to meet banks was driven by concern about job losses, the perception that banks were colluding and a perception that they were exercising power of “white monopoly capital against black business”.

Mantashe was asked if it would not have been prudent for the ANC not to have intervened as former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane was a business partner of the Guptas, and the party was aware of former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas's statement that he was offered the post of finance minister.

Mantashe disagreed, saying the ANC dealt with the “good and bad” and did not have the luxury of picking who it interacted with. “That is the nature of the beast,” he said.  

quintalg@businesslive.co.za