‘I had no direct meetings with the Guptas’ – Pravin Gordhan

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JOHANNESBURG, November 20 – Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Tuesday told the state capture commission of inquiry in Johannesburg he never sat in direct meetings with members of the Gupta family and only ran into them at official functions.

Gordhan said he needed to ”clear the air” after his evidence to the commission was leaked to the media last week.

”As a result of leakage of my statement, a lot of focus for people looking for soundbites has been trivialized into ‘did you meet the Guptas or not?’ and not ”what did you do with them?’ or whether you entered into unsavoury deals. I have seen them at cricket matches…I have seen vendors at these matches as well, that does not mean they met Guptas. There were post SONA TNA/SABC breakfast meetings and I was required to be there to support the president, and that might mean we sat in the same room with 50 tables and they might have been there. I want to make it clear that whatever the interruptions might have been, there was no meetings,” Gordhan said.

Regarding meeting Indian billionaire businessman Anil Ambani, Gordhan confirmed that the meeting took place at a hotel in Pretoria in 2010. He said the reason he agreed to meet Ambani was because he was a potential investor in South Africa, and that his company Ambani Airtel wanted to buy network giant MTN. The minister said the now director-general at Treasury, Dondo Mogajane, was present at the meeting, where the country’s regulations governing acquisitions and the role of Treasury were discussed.

Gordhan said he has never been to the Gupta’s compound in Saxonwold and had turned down the family’s invitation to their lavish wedding in Sun City in 2013.

Earlier, he testified how a public campaign was orchestrated against him and Treasury officials in a bid by detractors to capture the department. Law enforcement authorities such as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the Hawks, helped orchestrate the campaign while under its former boss Berning Ntlemeza. He testified that Ntlemeza handed an envelope to Treasury addressed to Gordhan a few days before the tabling of the budget in Parliament in February 2016. The envelope contained 27 questions regarding the SARS high risk unit formed years earlier.

Gordhan said he then arranged to meet with Zuma over the Hawks probe.

”During the meeting I objected strongly about this persecution and asked the former president whether political activists like myself must now prepare to be eliminated during the democratic era even though we had survived the oppression under the security police in the apartheid era.”

”In response to my objection, he [Zuma] merely flipped through the pages of the letter. He said he would discuss the matter with the then police minister Nathi Nhleko. I received no information from the former president in this regard.”

While busy preparing his budget speech, Gordhan was called to a meeting with former ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, his deputy Jessie Duarte and then ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhise and had to fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg. At the meeting, the three officials told him that the Hawks probe was a ”political problem” and that a political solution would be sought.

The¬†Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Black First Land First returned to the state capture commission’s Parktown venue on Tuesday and protested outside. The parties are accusing Gordhan of being a state capture enabler and demand that he resign. The red berets accused him of not being honest in Parliament regarding his encounters with the controversial Gupta family, and reported him to the public protector and Parliament’s Ethics Committee.¬† (ANA)