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Ebrahim Patel has joined the long list of cabinet ministers under former president Jacob Zuma to confirm that he met the controversial Gupta family, but said it was only during public or official functions.
“In the previous administration (2009-2014), members of the Gupta family were present at public or official functions or meetings that I attended, and as with other attendees, engaged with me at the events,” Patel said in a written reply in Parliament to a question from the DA.
His response was published on Monday.
Patel said he declined to meet the Guptas on other occasions.
“In approximately late 2011, my office received a request from a member of the Gupta family to meet with me. As no information was provided to warrant a meeting with me, I declined the request and directed my office to refer them to meet with one of my officials instead, as is standard practice with many requests by business people for bilateral meetings. They did not take up the offer and no further effort was made by them subsequently to follow up on this request.”
Patel said personal invitations to celebrate Diwali were received on more than one occasion, which invitations he declined.
“In addition, sometime in early 2013 I received an invitation to attend a wedding involving relatives of the Gupta family in Sun City, which invitation I declined,” the minister said.
Trade and industry minister Rob Davies confirmed in a reply to a parliamentary question in October that he met members of the Gupta family on a number of occasions, and said he was willing to appear before the commission of inquiry into state capture.
In a leaked sworn statement to the state-capture inquiry, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan said he officially met the Guptas once in a meeting requested by former president Jacob Zuma some time between 2009 and 2014, when he was the finance minister. He declined to meet them later on.
In October, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that he had accepted the resignation of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and appointed former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni to the post.
Nene asked Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties following public pressure over his testimony at the state-capture inquiry, at which he admitted to meeting the Gupta family on many occasions and at their Saxonwold home. Nene previously told broadcaster eNCA that he had not had any engagements with the Guptas and only “bumped into” them at official functions.
Minister in the presidency Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has also confirmed meeting the controversial family.
A cache of leaked e-mail correspondence between the Gupta family and its associates, including cabinet ministers and former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane‚ has shown how they influenced government operations and milked state-owned entities.
Patel said in his written reply on Monday that in February 2010 on the day of the state of the nation address, Duduzane Zuma came to briefly introduce himself to him at his offices in parliament.
“No specific request was made by him at the meeting nor does my office have any record of a request for a follow-up meeting,” said Patel.
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