South Africa: Banks finger Zwane as key champion of Guptas
JOHANNESBURG – The testimony of four of SA’s major banks unmasked Mosebenzi Zwane as the key champion who fought against a decision to close the Gupta family’s bank accounts.
Testimony by senior banking officials before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry this week lifted the lid on how during meetings with Standard Bank, Absa, First National Bank and Nedbank, Zwane, a former mineral resources minister, threatened to take away the banks’ operating licences and in one instance pleaded with officials to “step in and save jobs”.
On Wednesday, it was Nedbank chief executive Mike Brown’s turn to tell how Zwane used his position at the inter-ministerial committee to act as a Gupta agent and pressure the bank.
Nedbank was the last of the four commercial banks to close bank accounts of Gupta-related businesses.
Brown testified that Zwane appealed to him to “step in and save jobs” by reopening closed Gupta company accounts, stressing that Gupta family members had stepped down from the companies.
“I found it [the request] particularly strange. I reminded Mr Zwane that we were not here to discuss particular client matters. Our decision for closing the accounts was based on the reputational and business risk associated with those accounts and that reputational and business risk would not have materially changed at all as a consequence of resignation of directors.”
The damning testimony by banks started on Monday, but according to the commission, Zwane has yet to apply to cross-examine the bank officials.
Commission rules dictate that Zwane has two weeks from the time he is implicated during witness testimony to apply to cross-examine the witnesses who implicated him.
On Wednesday, Zwane told Sowetan that he did not want to comment on evidence against him “at this stage”.
“Let me keep my view to myself for now.. I’ve made enough news.”
He also declined to comment on whether he’d seek to cross- examine any of the bank witnesses.
While Zwane – a minister in former president Jacob Zuma’s cabinet who travelled to Zurich around the same time the Guptas were there to negotiate the sale of Optimum mine – is still mulling his options, former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown will apply today for the right to cross-examine former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas about aspects of his evidence to the inquiry.
Like Standard Bank’s Ian Sinton, Nedbank’s Brown also testified that Zwane had made a seemingly veiled threat about the banks being dependent on government for the licences. Sowetan