By Pinky Khoabane
The man who is said to have fixed the meeting between the Guptas and Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas, has finally broken his silence leaving the Democratic Party (DA), Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and the media in somewhat of a pickle.
Here’s the dilemma for the DA. It had hoped the deputy finance minister, who has been portrayed as a flawless and squeaky clean politician since the Gupta job-offer allegation, had not met the “controversial” businessman.
Will DA ask Jonas to explain himself
At the time the story of the Guptas job offer to Jonas broke, the DA said it would bring the allegation of Hlongwane’s involvement to the attention of the Hawks who had been investigating the Guptas for corruption. But more seriously: “However, if Fana Hlongwane was the “fixer”, the Deputy Minister is going to have to explain how a person who holds high office, such as himself, came to be associated with a controversial person, who was at the centre of the arms deal scandal,” the DA’s David Maynier said at the time.
“The fact that Fana Hlongwane may have been involved could go some way to explaining why the Deputy Minister has refused to make a public statement, setting out all the particulars relating to his alleged meeting with Gupta family members, on or about 27 November 2015.”
But here’s the bombshell. Hlongwane and Jonas were business partners, according to the former, which may explain why the deputy finance minister may not have wanted to divulge too much detail about that meeting.
In a letter to the Public Protector which has now been leaked to The Citizen, Hlongwane confirms he was present at the much publicised meeting at which the Guptas allegedly offered Jonas the post of finance minister after former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was fired.
Job offer a lie
He however denies an offer for the finance minister job was made. Describing their relationship as a business partnership and Jonas as someone he had known “for some time”, Hlongwane says he’d been at the Sandton hotel to meet the deputy finance minister on a matter relating to statements that the latter had made. Hlongwane says Jonas had made statements that he (Hlongwane) was blackmailing him and he had asked Duduzane Zuma to convene a meeting between the two.
It’s this allegation of a government job offer that prodded Vytjie Mentor’s memory of a similar offer made to her by the Guptas some years ago. The result was a public outcry that has now led to the state capture probe by the public protector.
Madonsela had pleaded poverty ahead of the complaint to investigate the Gupta’s influence on government but Treasury offered her the money. She has rushed to conclude this investigation which somehow suggests she comes into the investigation with a set outcome.
The media will no doubt be scrounging around for evidence to completely discredit Hlongwane, it will be interesting to see if their self-righteous DA masters will remember to ask the deputy finance minister to explain himself or if any of them will institute an investigation into Hlongwane’s allegations that Jonas is a liar.