WAS HE, WAS HE NOT? Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas. Picture: THE HERALD
WAS HE, WAS HE NOT? Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas. Picture: THE HERALD

DEPUTY Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas has confirmed that he was approached by the Gupta family and offered the job as finance minister.

“Members of the Gupta family offered me the position of minister of finance to replace then minister Nene, I rejected this out of hand. The basis of my rejection of the offer is that it makes a mockery of our constitution and hard earned democracy,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “No one apart from the president appoints ministers.”

After months of reports of the undue influence of the Gupta family over President Jacob Zuma, Mr Jonas’s statement is the first confirmation, despite protests and denials from the family and silence on the matter from the president himself.

Mr Zuma has consistently defended his relationship with the Guptas and claimed that there was nothing untoward about it. The revelation by Mr Jonas not only disproves this but places the president in an awkward position ahead of a crucial African National Congress (ANC) national executive committee meeting to take place over the weekend.

He said he hesitated to speak out publicly but now feels he can no longer remain silent.

“This issue has a real danger of diverting attention away from the real and urgent challenges we face as a country,” Mr Jonas said.

He also placed on record that there was no discussion about the matter with ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte.

“I am committed to good governance, abiding by the Constitution of our country and being accountable to our people who repeatedly express their confidence and trust in us, election after election.”

The Gupta family on Wednesday continued to deny the allegations , describing it as "political point scoring between rival factions within the ANC".

A family spokesperson said suggestions that any member of the family or its associates had offered anyone a job in government was "totally false".

“We challenge Minister Jonas to provide a full account of the supposed meeting that took place, under oath, in a court of law. Minister Jonas is attempting to cover up and divert attention away from his own relationships and practices. We are confident questions about his own ethical standards will be exposed,” the family said in the statement.

“We will not provide any further running commentary on what is now just a politically motivated campaign against us.”