South African deputy fin min had death threat before expose: paper

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South Africa’s deputy finance minister received a death threat shortly before accusing a wealthy family with links to President Jacob Zuma of offering him the job of finance minister, a newspaper said on Thursday.

As he was preparing his statement, Mcebisi Jonas received a text message from a “prominent businessman” telling him to be quiet, Business Day, the country’s main financial daily, said.
“Please keep your own counsel. Martyrdom is best left to Christ,” the text message read. The paper did not identify the sender and Jonas was not immediately available to comment.

The report is the latest twist in a saga that has rocked the government of Africa’s most advanced economy, amid suggestions that the Gupta family, whose business empire stretches from media to mining, have had a hand in top political decisions.

The opposition has called for the president to resign, suggesting that the Gupta family may have been behind Zuma’s decision to sack respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December, and that the entire cabinet should be investigated as it may be compromised.

The Guptas, who sit on the boards of at least six companies with Zuma’s son Duduzane, denied making job offers to anyone in government.

Zuma’s office was not immediately available to comment.
“The rotten forces are on the back foot,” Barbara Hogan, a former cabinet minister and leading anti-apartheid activist, told 702 Talk Radio.
“To those people who believe they still need to defend Zuma and have benefited from a close relationship with the Guptas, I appeal to them now to stand back.”

The rand slipped 0.41 percent to 15.7045 per dollar by 0741 GMT, reversing gains triggered by the U.S. central bank’s decision to keep its lending rates unchanged.

South Africa’s Reserve Bank decides on interest rates at 1300 GMT, where is expected to keep rates on hold.

Moody’s analysts were due to visit South Africa on Wednesday of this week after putting its Baa2 credit rating on review. Its office here declined to confirm if they had arrived. Investors fear further political uncertainty could hasten a downgrade.

Investors fear further political uncertainty could hasten a downgrade, with Fitch and Standard & Poor’s already rating the country just one step above subinvestment grade.

The claims concerning the Guptas have erupted just as a prolonged confrontation between Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and the elite Hawks police unit has raised concerns about a possible repeat of the run on the rand and bonds seen in December when Zuma fired Nene.

In his statement, Jonas said the Guptas had offered him Nene’s job but he rejected it “out of hand” on the grounds that it made a mockery of South Africa’s 22-year-old democracy.

Zuma is due to answer questions in parliament on Thursday, and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is holding a scheduled leadership meeting this weekend at which the scandal will be discussed.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the party had to “send a clear message, unequivocally” that it could not be unduly influenced.

However, Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said it would not be making any hasty decisions. “Let’s leave that to the processes of the ANC,” he told 702 Talk Radio.