Four executives of four Gupta-owned companies ambushed finance minister Pravin Gordhan on PowerFM on Sunday night with questions focusing on the blacklisting of their bank accounts.
In his response, Gordhan revealed for the first time that he had met representatives of Oakbay over the banking issue and said: “Where treasury can assist it will go out of its way to do so. We will not stand still. But we require the right kind of approaches on these kinds of matters that will find constructive solutions.”
When the fourth executive phoned in after he had given his answer, Gordhan replied: “I have indicated that a channel that existed will be activated. There are options that are not being undertaken [that can be looked at].”
South Africa’s top banks this year blacklisted Oakbay Investments and Oakbay Resources and Energy, as well as their subsidiaries Sahara, The New Age and ANN7 — and Optimum coal mine will have theirs closed soon. The banks did not give reasons for their actions, but allegations of state capture and corruption are believed to have forced the banks to cut ties due to the risks associated with these claims.
The ambush occurred at around 10pm on Sunday, when Sahara CEO Stephan Nel, Gupta spokesman and The New Age managing editor Gary Naidoo, Oakbay Resources and Energy CEO Jacques Roux, and one other Oakbay manager phoned in one after another to ask the same question: “What is treasury doing to solve the banking blacklisting crisis at Oakbay?”
Gordhan, who had been discussing the effects of Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, was not pleased with the interruption.
“Four of you have now phoned,” he said. “I am surprised that you are using a talk show to resolve [your concerns].”
Responding, Gordhan said there is a confidential and contractual relationship between banks and their clients, which follows national and international banking regulations. “As a member of the G20, we as a country and the institutions within the country are obliged to abide by the rules,” he said.
Asked by Power FM host Onkgopotse Tabane whether he would engage one-on-one with an Oakbay executive live on air, Gordhan said: “I don’t want to engage. We can’t have this conversation over a talk show.
“These are matters where the world judges us,” he said. “We are a modern economy and a part of the G20 and have to get the balances right.
“With all due respect to the individuals, there is a channel of communication with treasury,” he said.