Jeanette Chabalala, News24
Former president Jacob Zuma took about two to three minutes to inform Nhlanhla Nene that he was removing him as finance minister, the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Wednesday.
Nene was reshuffled from Cabinet on December 9, 2015, and replaced by Des van Rooyen who lasted in the position for only a weekend.
Nene said on that day he was on his way home from a meeting when he received a call from the president’s office, informing him that the former president wanted to see him.”
I immediately turned back [and headed] to the Union Buildings. I arrived at the Union Buildings at about 18:00 or 18:15. When I arrived I was required to wait in the waiting room for a short while,” he said.
He said Zuma’s former aide in the Presidency, Lakela Kaunda, was also in the waiting room. He said they only greeted each other but nothing further was passed between them.
“He (Zuma) had asked Ms Kaunda to contact me but she hadn’t, nor did she mention anything about it in the waiting room. She was clearly aware of what was going on. I informed him that I did not receive that message,” he said.
‘I thanked the president’
Nene quoted the former president as saying: “You would remember that when we were discussing the establishment of the African Regional Centre I had said that we would deploy a senior, high-ranking individual to that position?”
He said Zuma was referring to the African Regional Centre of Brics’ New Development Bank, the Brics bank.
The Brics countries had signed an agreement establishing the bank at the 6th Brics Summit in July 2014 in Brazil, Nene said.
He said Zuma addressed him in isiZulu and told him that he had discussed the matter with the ANC’s top six and that all its members had agreed to put him there.
“The president made no mention of any other reason for my removal. I did not ask the president for reasons for this decision as I did not think it would be appropriate,” he said.
Nene said he thanked the president for “having provided me the opportunity to serve the country as minister of finance. We shook hands and I left. The entire meeting lasted two to three minutes”.
“It is obvious that the ‘deployment’ to the Brics bank was a fabrication. I say so because the president had no authority to offer me a position or deploy me to a position in the Brics bank, nor could such an appointment be considered at that stage, at least without due process, which also involves other member countries.”
He said the offer did not materialise and the position remained vacant until he was reappointed as minister of finance.
ANC meeting minutes might make an appearance
Asked if he knew whether or not the ANC’s top six keeps minutes of its meetings, Nene said he did not aspire to know.
However, speaking to reporters, the ANC’s Zizi Kodwa said if it meant the party should present the minutes, it would do so.
“Within the ambit and terms of reference of this commission, if there is a request of anything from the ANC to help the terms of reference of this commission, we will do everything,” Kodwa said.
Earlier, Nene took the chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, through the events that led to his axing.
Nene said he refused to approve a nuclear deal with Russia twice because it would have had severe financial implications for the country.
He said he first told former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson that he would not sign off on a deal for Russia to provide South Africa with nuclear energy because a feasibility study had not been conducted and there were unknown cost implications.
He asked her to rewrite the letter, but still refused to put his signature on it.
However, following his refusal to sign the deal, he said his own colleagues were hostile towards him, adding that Rural Development Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, then minister of international relations and cooperation, and former state security minister David Mahlobo accused him of insubordination.