South Africa’s deputy finance minister received a death threat shortly before issuing a statement accusing a wealthy family with links to President Jacob Zuma of offering him the job of finance minister, the Business Day newspaper said on Thursday.
As he was preparing his bombshell statement, Mcebisi Jonas received a text message from a “prominent businessman” telling him to be quiet, the paper – South Africa’s main business daily – said.
“Please keep your own counsel. Martyrdom is best left to Christ,” the text message read. The paper did not identify the sender.
The report is the latest twist in a saga that has rocked the government of Africa’s most advanced economy, amid suggestions the Gupta family, whose business empire stretches from media to mining, have had a hand in top political decisions.
That may even have stretched to Zuma’s decision to sack respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December, a move that sent financial markets and the rand into a tail-spin.
In his Wednesday statement, Jonas said the Guptas had offered him Nene’s job but he rejected it “out of hand” on the grounds that it made a mockery of South Africa’s 22-year-old democracy.
Zuma is due to answer questions in parliament on Thursday, and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is holding a scheduled meeting of its top brass this weekend at which the scandal will be discussed.
The opposition have called for Zuma’s resignation, saying the entire cabinet is compromised, and its main spokesman, Zizi Kodwa, said the party had to “send a clear message, unequivocally” that it could not be unduly influenced.
However, Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said it would not be making any hasty decisions.
“Let’s leave that to the processes of the ANC,” he told 702 Talk Radio.
The Guptas, who sit on the boards of at least six companies with Zuma’s son, Duduzane, denied making job offers to anyone in government.