South African President Zuma's government is rocked by accusations that a powerful family may have been behind his decision to sack a finance minister in December. As David Pollard reports, the row comes amid new fears over a struggling economy.
First, the allegation ... The deputy finance minister was offered the post of finance minister - but by persons other than President Zuma. (SOUNDBITE)(English) DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER, MCEBISI JONAS, SAYING: "Members of the Gupta family offered me the position of minister of finance to replace then minister Nene. I rejected this out of hand. The basis of my rejection of their offer is that it makes a mockery of our hard earned democracy." And then the denial - as the South African president is challenged in parliament. Over whether the powerful Gupta family - who have businesses stretching from media to mining - do have undue influence over political appointments. (SOUNDBITE)(English) LEADER OF THE DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE (DA), MMUSI MAIMANE, SAYING: "Is the president willing to take accountability for the decision and resign in front of the people of South Africa?" (SOUNDBITE)(English) PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, JACOB ZUMA, SAYING: "If Jonas says he was offered by the Guptas, I think you will be well placed to ask the Guptas or Jonas, don't ask me; where do I come in?" Jonas's boss, current finance minister Pravin Gordhan, is embroiled in a separate confrontation with an elite police unit. But - with reports that Jonas also received a death threat - this adds a new twist to South Africa's political tensions. And economic stresses - the news breaking just as the central bank raised rates to cope with inflation pressures. While in parliament, the row broke into heated scenes as Zuma's accuser was ejected - to the delight of Zuma's ANC allies. Though amid fears of credit ratings downgrade, perhaps not to South Africa's investors.