Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - Southern African Catholic Bishops are "profoundly disturbed" by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas’s confirmation that he was offered the post of Finance Minister by members of the Gupta family. "It is vital that high offices of State should not be compromised by the involvement of parties with commercial or personal interests", said a statement sent to Agenzia Fides by the "Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference".
Jonas revealed that he received an offer to become Minister of Finance by the Gupta family in the aftermath of the dismissal by President Jacob Zuma of the previous holder of the office, Nhlanhla Nene, a figure much appreciated for his ability (see Fides 17/12/2015). Jonas had rejected the offer and the office was entrusted to Des van Rooyen. The family of Indian origin entrepreneurs had jumped to the headlines in 2013 when a scandal broke out for the use of military aircraft and police forces to transport and protect guests at a wedding of a family member. Even then, the South African Bishops had denounced the mixing of public and private affairs (see Fides 18/05/2013).
Other public officials also revealed interference of the powerful Gupta family, considered close to President Zuma, in the appointment of public offices, a fact underlined by the Bishops: "Mr Jonas’s revelation lends credence to other claims of involvement by the same family in the appointment of ministers".
"Such interference seriously undermines transparent and accountable governance in South Africa, and betrays our people’s struggle for political and economic freedom" the Bishops said.
"The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference therefore calls upon President Jacob Zuma and the leadership of the African National Congress to demonstrate unambiguously that such alarming improprieties in the conduct of high government business will no longer be tolerated" .
"We wish to stress that this is a matter of vital interest for common good of all South Africans; it is not a question of party politics, in which, we as a church denomination, have no specific interest" state the Bishops. "South Africa is passing through a difficult period, politically and economically, and it is only by adhering to fundamental values of good governance and integrity in public life that we will be able to face up to and overcome our challenges", concludes the statement. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 18/03/2016)