President Jacob Zuma has dodged a parliamentary question on whether he had visited the Gupta family’s mansion in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.
DA MP James Lorimer asked Zuma whether he had visited the Gupta family compound on Sunday September 20 last year.
If he did, Lorimer wanted to know why he had made the visit and what the nature of the discussions had been while he was there. Lorimer also asked whether the discussion had included the subsequent cabinet reshuffle that happened in the Ministry of Mineral Resources portfolio and whether he was aware of any cabinet member visiting the Guptas on that day.
The reshuffle included the appointment of Gupta-aligned minister Mosebenzi Zwane.
Zuma used public protector Thuli Madonsela’s investigation into state capture as a reason not to answer the question.
“The Presidency was informed by the public protector she has received complaints and requests that she should investigate this matter or related allegations.
“The public protector’s investigation is still continuing,” was all answer Zuma would give.
Yesterday, Lorimer said Zuma’s answer revealed even more than it concealed.
“We had received information that such a meeting had indeed taken place,” he said.
“The fact that the president waited for four months to reply to the question, and then hid behind the Madonsela investigation not to answer it, is very instructive, especially since the Madonsela investigation is a recent development.
“This non-reply shows there is something untoward and it will only add fuel to the fire that the president’s relationship with the Gupta family is right at the heart of state capture.”
DA MP David Maynier wanted to know whether Zuma was going to act against Zwane for falsely claiming earlier this month the cabinet had ordered a probe into the banking sector.
Zuma said Zwane’s statement was in his personal capacity.
“I reassured the public, the banking sector, as well as domestic and international investors, of government’s unwavering commitment to the letter and spirit of the country’s constitution as well as in the sound fiscal and economic fundamentals that underpin our economy.
“I also informed parliament on September 13 that I was engaging Minister Zwane regarding his statement,” Zuma said.
He did not reveal when the engagement would happen or what it would entail.
Former DA leader in the National Council of Provinces Elza van Lingen asked Zuma whether he was informed of claims that the Gupta family had offered cabinet positions during his tenure as president.
She wanted to know whether Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas was telling the truth about such an offer, and whether Zuma would therefore resign as president.
“The appointment of members of the cabinet . . . remains my sole prerogative as president,” Zuma said.
He said he had learnt of Jonas’s statement through the media, not letting on whether he had ever asked him about the alleged meeting.