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Nene to be investigated by Public Protector over PIC deal

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Nene to be investigated by Public Protector over PIC deal

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Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene

9th October 2018

By: News24Wire

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Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene will be investigated by the Public Protector for allegedly breaching the executive code of ethics relating to an investment by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) in a company that may have benefitted his son.

According to Democratic Alliance (DA) MP David Maynier, the party's request for investigation relates to allegations surrounding a PIC investment into a Mozambican refinery that "reportedly included a US$1.7-million (around R18.5-million at the time) 'referral fee' which may have benefitted the minister's son, Siyabonga Nene".

"I received a reply from Oupa Segalwe, acting executive manager: communications and stakeholder management, dated 8 October 2018, confirming that the matter will be investigated by the good governance and integrity branch within the Office of the Public Protector," said Maynier.

"These allegations are serious given the fact that, in terms of section 96(2)(b) of the Constitution, ministers may not expose themselves to any situation involving the risk of a conflict between their official responsibilities and private interests."

The Public Protector confirmed to News24 that Minister Nene would be investigated.

Last week, the Mail & Guardian and amaBhungane reported that the PIC had invested almost R1-billion in the refinery in which Siyabonga and his business partner Muhammad Amir Mirza are named as directors.

Minister denies allegations

The introduction of the possible investment was made in February 2014 while the minister was the chairperson of the PIC board.

Siyabonga and Mirza's company, Indiafrec, was not named as the PIC's investment partner, although Mirza in his personal capacity was roped in to become a major shareholder, along with the PIC.

The PIC paid a company owned by Mirza the "referral fee" of R18.5-million, held in an offshore account in the United Arab Emirates. In addition, the PIC – represented by Dan Matjila as its chief investment and later chief executive officer – subsequently helped negotiate an exit package from the refinery for Mirza to the value of $3.3-million (around R49-million), according to the Mail & Guardian and amaBhungane.

As rumours circulated about Nene's involvement in facilitating finance for his son's business dealings, the minister responded to the allegations during the commission of inquiry into state capture by denying allegations of impropriety.

"I deny that I ever acted inappropriately with regard to any investments made by the PIC. I deny any and every allegation that I knowingly acted to provide any funding from the PIC for any business involving my son," he said.

In a statement by the DA on Tuesday, the party said it had requested Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to investigate the minister in terms of section 4 of the Executive Members' Ethics Act (No. 82 of 1998), to determine whether there was any breach of the executive code of ethics, which is applicable to ministers and deputy ministers in South Africa.

Request to be relieved of duties

Minister Nene landed himself in hot water last week after he confirmed meeting with the Gupta family on several occasions between 2009 and 2014.

He revealed this during his appearance before the commission of inquiry into state capture. He previously told media that he had never formally met with the controversial family placed at the centre of the State capture allegations.

Since his testimony, the minister has apologised for taking meetings with the Guptas and has also reportedly asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties.

A senior government official previously told News24 the reports of the minister's request were true and that he and the president had a telephonic conversation about it. The official refused to divulge any further information and instead directed questions to the Presidency and Minister Nene.

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