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Mon Sep 26 22:48:11 SAST 2016

Sunday Times stands by story on Gupta job offer

TMG Digital | 14 March, 2016 11:01
Ajay Gupta and his younger brother Atul, right, offered Mcebisi Jonas, far left, the position of finance minister — on condition he purge the Treasury of those opposing a proposed nuclear deal, say sources
Image by: MARTIN RHODES

“The Sunday Times stands by its story‚” editor Bongani Siqoko said on Monday in response to threats of legal action by the ruling party against it.

African National Congress’ (ANC) spokeperson Zizi Kodwa went on radio on Monday to dispute claims in the newspaper which‚ the Sunday Times said‚ confirmed earlier reports that the Gupta family met with the deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas to offer him the top job.

“Anyway‚ at the time of our reporting of this story‚ news of the meeting was already in the public domain‚” said Siqoko.

“All we did was to go to people with intimate knowledge of what really happened at the meeting. We are confident of our sources.”

Siqoko added that every person mentioned in the report “was given an opportunity to tell us his or her side of the story”.

“We will defend ourselves should this be taken to the press ombudsman‚” he added.

The ombud was one the legal remedies suggested by Kodwa on Sunday in his initial reaction to the report - which also claimed that its deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte had too approached Jonas about the post – as “gossip mongering being masqueraded as news”.

Kodwa said the party “will be approaching the press ombudsman to seek relief against the poor and shoddy journalism of the Sunday Times” and that Duarte “will further seek legal advice on her options with regards to the lies being peddled about her by the paper”.

Kodwa told 702 on Monday: “The mention of the name of deputy secretary-general was nothing but a way to legitimise the gossip.”

He said the party would also like answers from Jonas on the allegations: “We'd like to hear from him exactly what transpired‚ whether there is proof in the allegation of the meeting.”

The Congress of the People (Cope) on Monday dismissed the ANC’s threat of action‚ saying: “Denials and threats of legal action against a newspaper will not make the story go away.

Cope’s Dennis Bloem challenged Duarte and Jonas – as well as ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe – “to break their silence and tell the country the whole truth”.

Bloem said Jonas in particular “must under oath tell whether or not he met with the Gupta brothers in November 2015”.

“It will be in the best interest of the country. It will be better sooner rather than later for the truth to come out‚” he said.

The Gupta family had‚ on Sunday‚ issued a statement to say “there was no meeting at all” and that it challenges “the faceless purveyors of these lies to provide evidence of any of these allegations”.

The Sunday Times reported that shortly after Jonas turned the Guptas down‚ his superior Nhlanhla Nene was axed by Zuma and replaced by unknown Des van Rooyen.

Van Rooyen was quickly replaced after markets showed their displeasure with his appointment‚ and made way for Pravin Gordhan‚ who is due to speak at the JSE on Monday afternoon about his investor roadshow in the US and Europe.

The reports of the Guptas offering the job to Jonas first emerged in the London-based Financial Times last week.

The Guptas said through an attorney on Sunday: "There have been an extraordinary number of allegations around the Gupta family in recent weeks‚ several of which have involved the finance ministry.

“As we have said countless times‚ our primary focus is on business‚ not politics. To be absolutely clear: there was no meeting at all‚ let alone any inferences or cash offers."

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