The beginning of the end of Nhlanhla Nene’s political career came on a Monday morning. He was catching up on e-mail in his office in Pretoria’s Old Reserve Bank building, where he was serving as finance minister, when his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, asked for an urgent meeting. Jonas had been desperate to speak to his boss for days, but what he wanted to tell Nene was far too sensitive to discuss by phone. Nene, a veteran trade union activist, has a preternatural calm. He suggested to Jonas that they step onto an adjoining balcony, the better to avoid any listening devices. There, Jonas began his tale. The previous Friday, Jonas said, he had been summoned to the four-mansion compound in Saxonwold, Johannesburg owned by the Gupta family. Ajay Gupta, the eldest of three brothers atop the family, was direct: Nene was becoming a problem. He explained that Jonas would soon replace Nene as finance minister and, in that capacity, would remove some senior officials who were also standing in the ...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Sunday Times Daily.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now