Nhlanhla Nene says sorry: Meeting Guptas at their home, offices was a mistake

Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene is giving testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture that is chaired by the deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene is giving testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture that is chaired by the deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene has apologised to all South Africans for meeting the embattled Gupta brothers at their home and businesses‚ begging for the country's citizens to forgive him‚ saying that the meetings had been a "mistake".

In a statement issued on Friday by the finance ministry‚ Nene said during his testimony this week before the State Capture Commission of Inquiry‚ he made reference to "the visits I made to the premises of the Gupta family business in Midrand as well as their residence in Saxonwold‚ Johannesburg.

"These visits took place during the period from 2010 to 2014‚ when I was deputy minister and finance minister respectively. Part of my duty as a public office bearer is meet fellow South Africans and other shareholders when they request to do so.

"However‚ I was wrong in meeting the Guptas at their residence and not in my office or at least a public place."

Nene‚ in his apology adds that it is quite a common practice globally for public office bearers to attend gatherings‚ including dinners‚ at residences of business people‚ fellow politicians‚ and other stakeholders.

"But‚ context matters. As soon as I became aware of the controversy swirling around the family's business dealings‚ I should‚ subject to there being a legitimate reason for doing so‚ have met Guptas at my office accompanied‚ as is customary‚ by a ministry of finance or national treasury official."

Nene in his letter appeals for South Africans to return their faith and trust him.

"I owe you conduct as a public office bearer that is beyond reproach. But I am human too‚ I do make mistakes‚ including those of poor judgement."

He said it was reasonable of the public to expect public officer bearers to own up fully and timeously to the mistakes they make in the course of carrying out their public duties.

"I should also have disclosed early‚ and fully‚ the details of these meetings‚ in particular those that took place in Saxonwold. I therefore failed to live up to those ideals. These visits do cast a shadow on my conduct as a public office bearer.

"I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness."

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene seemed to contradict himself when he testified at the state capture inquiry in Johannesburg on October 3 2018. In an exclusive interview with eNCA, Nene said he had only bumped into the Gupta family “once or twice” but, at the inquiry, he admitted to having met with the controversial family at their Saxonwold home on numerous occasions.

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