Lindiwe Sisulu has denied allegations that she was removed as minister of defence and posted to the ministry of Public Service and Administration because of influence from the Gupta family.
She was responding to allegations made by Deputy Economic Freedom Fighters President Floyd Shivambu. He was speaking at a rally in Uitenhage in commemoration of Human Rights Day on Monday. eNCA reported him as saying that “We can tell you for free that the reason Lindiwe Sisulu was shifted from [the] defence ministry to public service and administration, is because the Guptas wants [sic] to have the tender to lease planes to defence for R106 billion. They have that tender now. She wanted to buy cheaper planes, but the Guptas said no, we will sell you a plane for R4 billion. And when she refused, they shifted her to public service and administration,” he said.
Sisulu was subsequently moved to the ministry of Human Settlements. In a statement, the ministry said that, “The Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu has noted a statement made by the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters] on her tenure as the Minister of Defence and Military veterans. The Minister is unaware and has no knowledge of the allegations made by the EFF.”
In a subsequent Tweet today, Shivambu said that “Sisulu will obviously deny the Gupta reshuffle, despite the fact that she hysterically cried when removed from Defence by them.”
The EFF claims it is able to prove all of its claims in court and has challenged the Guptas to sue, but at present no evidence backing the claims has yet come to light.
President Jacob Zuma announced the replacement of Sisulu with former correctional services minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on 12 June 2012 during a reshuffle which saw several top ministers moved to different portfolios.
Shivambu’s allegations come as senior officials have accused the Gupta family of wielding undue influence in government activities. The Guptas, whose businesses stretch from media to mining, have denied offering government jobs and say they are pawns in a plot to oust Zuma.
Pressure on Zuma intensified when former cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko told the Sunday Times newspaper that the president asked him in a 2010 phone call to meet the Guptas at their home in Johannesburg and to “please help them”. Maseko said he met two Gupta brothers who wanted his help in directing government advertising to a newspaper, The New Age, that the family was launching, the report said.
The Gupta family rejected Maseko’s accusations. “We are bemused by Mr Maseko’s six-year-old allegations, which are totally unfounded,” Nazeem Howa, CEO of Oakbay Investments, the holding company for the Gupta family’s businesses in South Africa, said in a statement.
Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said on Wednesday that the Gupta family had offered him former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s job shortly before Zuma abruptly dismissed Nene in December, sending South Africa’s rand down nearly 10 percent.
ANC MP Vytjie Mentor said she had been told she could become public enterprises minister if she halted state-owned South African Airways’ (SAA’s) flights to India so the Guptas’ airline would take over the route.
Zuma has said in parliament that only he appoints ministers to the cabinet and dismissed Jonas’ account.
Gwede Mantashe, secretary general of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), said the party had full confidence in Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who has been involved in a prolonged confrontation with the elite police unit Hawks. Gordhan has repeatedly said an investigation into a surveillance unit set up at the revenue service when he headed the agency was a smear campaign aimed at tarnishing his credibility.
The ANC said on Sunday it had full confidence in Zuma after a three-day party summit. Mantashe said party officials had not discussed Zuma standing down from the presidency during the summit. The 73-year-old president has survived several scandals over the years.
Meanwhile, the Public Protector, will approach the national treasury for funds to investigate Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas, Beeld newspaper reported on Tuesday. Thuli Madonsela, whose term as Public Protector expires in October, was quoted as saying her office was bound by law to look into a complaint lodged last week by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).
The watchdog’s budget has been cut ever since an investigation into a R250 million state-funded security upgrade to Zuma’s private residence at Nkandla.
Madonsela, who said her office would contact treasury soon, sees the investigation lasting between two and six months if the extra funding is secured.