Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan has hailed Mcebisi Jonas' testimony at the judicial inquiry into state capture as "extremely brave".
Jonas delivered bombshell after bombshell on Friday while he was guiding Deputy Chief Justice Ray Zondo through the chronology of events of state capture as he experienced it.
He told the commission that Ajay Gupta threatened to kill him should any details of the infamous meeting between him, Jonas, Duduzane Zuma (the son of former president Jacob Zuma) and businessman Fana Hlongwane ever become public.
Gordhan, who sat quietly at the back while listening to his former deputy’s testimony, told News24 he has enormous respect for Jonas.
“He is extremely brave… this is what a true patriot does.”
Jonas told the commission that former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was dismissed by then president Jacob Zuma in December 2015 because he did not want to authorise the nuclear deal.
Zuma was adamant that the country should enter into an agreement with Russia for the construction of nuclear power stations.
Jonas said the time before Nene was fired was in his view, the most dramatic period in the country’s democratic history.
He explained there was “huge hostility” in Cabinet and from the president toward National Treasury, who attempted to prevent the country from falling into a fiscal crisis.
Gordhan told News24 that, while he was Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, he could see the hostility that Jonas referred to.
“There was growing pressure on Treasury and Nene from September, October 2015 onward. Nene’s dismissal finally crystallised what was at play.”
He said despite the pressure applied on Treasury by Zuma and others, there were still many checks and balances which procurement on that scale had to clear.
“There were memorandums of understanding that had to be signed, other contracts. I think Tina Joemat-Pettersson [former minister of energy] can talk about that. In our system, with the procurement rules, many more steps had to be followed before something like that could go through to execution. And also, South Africans would have been able to examine the wisdom of something like that.”
Gordhan, who now serves as Minister of Public Enterprises and is leading the clean-up of corrupted state-owned enterprises, appeared shocked when Jonas testified about the death threats Ajay Gupta made to him and his demands about which senior Treasury officials had to be dismissed.
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