Cape Town - National Treasury on Monday strongly denied that any of its senior officials could have been the source of a report in a Sunday newspaper, which insinuated that Deputy Secretary General of the ANC Jessie Duarte had offered Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas the position of finance minister in the place of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.
The Sunday Times reported on March 13 that President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane was present at a meeting at a Sandton hotel at 15:00 on the last Friday in November - about two weeks before Zuma fired Nene - where members of the Gupta family allegedly offered Jonas then-finance minister Nhlanhla Nene's job. The newspaper further alleged that Jonas was again offered this position a few days later by Duarte.
The paper said numerous attempts to get comment from Jonas were unsuccessful.
"It is concerning that the Sunday Times regularly relies on unnamed sources and faceless people to spread rumours and give credence to their stories. This is an issue we have raised previously with the publication to no avail," Treasury said in a statement.
"We challenge the Sunday Times to back up their claim and provide proof of such a source. Should such proof be provided, appropriate action against such officials will be taken."
Treasury only refuted the allegation regarding Duarte and did not mention the Gupta, Duduzane Zuma allegation.
The Gupta family has denied that any such meeting took place and that no "cash offers" or "inferences" were ever made. Duduzane Zuma has also denied the allegations of such a meeting.
It's time for answers, was the reaction on Monday of David Maynier, DA shadow minister of finance.Mantashe, Duarte and Jonas must "come out of the closet" and tell the nation the whole truth, Dennis Bloem, spokesperson of the Congress of the People (Cope) said on Monday.
"We need a clear statement from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan about the conduct of his deputy today," Maynier said in a statement.
"We do not know whether the story is true but the fact that the deputy minister has consistently refused to confirm or deny the reports creates the impression that the reports are true."
In his view, Gordon should "step in and stop the bleeding" by making a public statement clarifying whether Johas had met with the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma.
In Cope's view, Jonas must under oath tell whether or not he met with the Gupta brothers in November 2015.
In an open letter to the Sunday Times, written in his personal capacity, and which was also sent to Fin24, Nkosi Maseko, CEO: Kusile Labs & Technology, writes that he finds it "interesting" that the Sunday Times article states such a meeting between Gupta family members, Jonas and Duduzane Zuma as a fact "beyond any measure of doubt" as well as the alleged offering of the position as finance minister.
"But here is a paradox. The key players or supposed players in the ‘supposed meeting’ and those that are alleged to have been informed about it, are all answering your inquiries and refuting that there was such a meeting," writes Maseko.
"However, as logic would in this case dictate, they would always refute this kind of a meeting even if it did take place."
On the other hand, Maseko asks why Gwede Mantashe, Nene and Jonas would want to lie about such a meeting if indeed it did take place. Which they have denied.
"There is no reason why Mantashe or Nene would try and protect the Guptas," writes Maseko. He would also like to know what Duarte and four Treasury officials who allegedly stood to lose their jobs had to say about such a meeting allegedly taking place.
"They are all either 'unaware' or 'have no idea', or 'were out of the country' or could not comment. If these officials stood to lose their jobs at the expense of the Guptas, why would they protect them by refusing to expose them?" asked Maseko.
"Your story would have given them the best opportunity to expose them. And again what is important for the public here is that, you were able to get them to respond to your questions. You are writing what they said and not what you heard or read somewhere."
Maseko does have a problem with the Sunday paper reflecting as a fact "a story based on ‘insiders’ whom you cannot name".
"Why is it that the story of the nameless ‘insiders’ carries more weight than that of all the concerned and identified individuals who, according to your successful inquiries, know nothing about this meeting?" asked Maseko.
"And your story is dead as long as you are not able to get Jonas to respond. Shouldn't you have established the veracity of this story with him first, prior to printing?"
In Maseko's view, the allegations cannot pass as "fact" at this stage based on the available pieces of information at the paper's disposal.
"It may on the other hand pass as a smear campaign against individuals cited," suggested Maseko.