South African Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene on Wednesday gave damning testimony against former South African president Jacob Zuma, accusing him of pushing policies designed to benefit the wealthy family at the heart of a government corruption scandal.
Nene was sacked by Zuma in 2015 in a move that shocked many South Africans and foreign investors, as allegations grew that Zuma and the Gupta family were overseeing rampant state corruption.
The Gupta brothers are accused of fraudulently profiting from vast government contracts, and energy and transport deals under Zuma, who was ousted earlier this year by the African National Congress.
Nene was reappointed by new South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“I do believe that I was removed from office due to my refusal to toe the line in relation to certain projects,” Nene told a judicial inquiry into state corruption. “Those projects may have benefited the Gupta family and other close associates of the then-president ... for instance the nuclear deal and the SAA [South African Airways] strategy.”
Nene said that his then-deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, was offered his job after Nene refused to back a proposed US$100 billion Russian-built nuclear program that the Guptas were set to benefit from.
“It makes sense that those who wish to pursue a systematic strategy to raid the public coffers ... would attack the role or credibility of the national treasury,” Nene said.
Nene added that pressure was put on the treasury “to conceal dubious or irregular procurement.”
He described the cost of the proposed nuclear power stations as “astronomical” and posing a threat to the nation’s finances.
At a meeting with Zuma in 2015, when Nene declined to back the nuclear project, Nene said he received “a very tense and hostile” response from Zuma who wanted to report on progress to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The inquiry, which opened in August, is probing allegations that Zuma organized a web of graft at government departments and public enterprises in a scandal known as “state capture.”
Jonas had previously told the inquiry that one of the Gupta brothers threatened to kill him after Jonas refused to accept a US$40 million bribe.
Nene told the inquiry that he met Jonas on a balcony to avoid being bugged by the intelligence services, saying: “Even when you look at a flower pot, you are not sure.”
The Guptas owned a uranium mine, which would have seen profits soar from the nuclear deal, as well as a portfolio of mining, technology and media companies.
When Nene was fired in 2015, Zuma replaced him with a little-known loyalist who lasted four days in the job as markets dived and investors pulled out of the country.
The Indian-born Gupta brothers — Ajay, Atul and Rajesh — have left South Africa and are now based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The inquiry chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, urged public officials to give evidence.
“I just hope people will realize it will be better if they come forward on their own ... rather than be dragged screaming and kicking,” he said. “This is a very serious issue in our country, the whole country wants to know what happened.”
Zuma, 76, has also been charged with 16 counts of graft linked to an arms deal from before he became president. He is to appear in court on Nov. 30.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,