'Some of us were worried for our lives': Mcebisi Jonas tells state capture inquiry

15 March 2019 - 11:22 By AMIL UMRAW
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas during an earlier appearance at the state capture inquiry.
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas during an earlier appearance at the state capture inquiry.
Image: Alon Skuy

Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas told the state capture inquiry on Friday that he and other members of the National Treasury were "worried for their lives" due to the political hostility towards them.

Jonas, who is appearing before the commission for the second time, described how the political landscape in the country "over the past 10 years" affected the Treasury.

"You have many government departments. Treasury is probably the only government department where it is constitutionally determined what its role should be … There is an ever-existing possibility of people raising concerns on the implications of the Treasury on their work," he said.  

"Over the past 10 years, if you look at the political landscape in the country, I always say you have no national leadership, you have provincial leadership playing a national leadership role."

He said this opened up Treasury to political hostility.

"Before we attended any meeting of government, we used to think very hard about what was likely to come out. Most of it centred on the nuclear deal, but it also centred on issues of expenditure management. The tension was almost reaching personal proportions ... There was a time where we felt like we were ostracised. It was at a personal level, very serious, to a point where some of us were even worried for our lives," he said.  

"Intelligence was being used to pursue some people. ...  By the time we got fired there was some intelligence report used to fire us. The pressure at a personal level, at a professional level, was very palpable."

Jonas said when former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was charged with fraud in 2016, "it reminded me of the apartheid era" because it was so vicious. The charges were subsequently dropped.

Jonas, along with Gordhan, was fired by former president Jacob Zuma in 2017. Zuma relied on a so-called intelligence report to fire them. It claimed Gordhan and his team were conspiring with foreign interests to undermine his administration.


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