Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene is under pressure to resign after he last week disclosed to an anti-corruption commission that he met members of the Gupta family at their Johannesburg residence six times, people familiar with the situation said.
The Guptas are friends of former President Jacob Zuma who have done business with his son Duduzane and have been implicated in a corruption scandal including using their influence to have ministers appointed by Zuma. They and Zuma have denied wrongdoing.
Factions within the African National Congress have been discussing potential replacements that they could suggest to President Cyril Ramaphosa, three senior party officials said, asking not to be identified because the information has not been made public.
Former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas is considered a front-runner, along with South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago and one of his deputies, Daniel Mminele, the people said. Barbara Creecy, head of the finance portfolio in the Gauteng province has been also been touted as a candidate, they said.
Nene, who was fired as finance minister by Zuma in December 2015, was reappointed to the position by Ramaphosa in February and has been tasked with turning around an economy that fell into recession in the second quarter.
He told the Commission of Inquiry Into State Capture last week about the meetings with the Guptas after previously having said he had only met the three brothers on social occasions, prompting opposition parties to call for him to step down. He also told the commission that he was fired by Zuma because he refused to sign a multi-billion nuclear power pact with Russia that would have crippled South Africa’s finances.
“These visits do cast a shadow on my conduct as a public office bearer,” Nene said in a statement on Friday of the visits to the Guptas residence in earlier stints as deputy finance minister and finance minister. “I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness,” he said in the statement that was addressed to South Africans.
He earlier told the commission that he should have instead met the Guptas at his office in the presence of government finance officials.
The ANC’s top six most senior officials, including Ramaphosa, were in meetings all weekend, discussing governance and party plans and have not taken a decision on the matter, according to one of the people. The Sunday Times reported that Ramaphosa was unaware of Nene’s previous meetings with the Guptas.
Calls to officials in the presidency didn’t connect.