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Paper says South Africa finance minister asks president to remove him

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to sack him after he admitted to visiting the home of the Gupta brothers, friends of scandal-plagued former leader Jacob Zuma, a newspaper said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Nhlanhla Nene is sworn in as Minister of Finance in Cape Town, South Africa, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham/File Photo

Nene has become a divisive figure after testimony he gave at an inquiry into allegations of corruption by the Guptas, in which he admitted to the previously undisclosed visits. He made a public apology about the matter on Friday.

Zuma and the Guptas, who face numerous allegations of using their friendship for mutual self-enrichment, have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

The Business Day newspaper, citing unidentified government sources, reported on Monday that Nene made the request to Ramaphosa at the weekend.

“Government sources said Nene approached Ramaphosa after the highly negative public reaction to his apology to South Africans on Friday for the meetings with the Gupta family when he served under Zuma,” the South African newspaper said.

It said the issue was likely to be raised at a meeting of the ruling African National Congress party later on Monday.

Treasury spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane referred Reuters to the presidency for comment. Ramaphosa’s spokesman did not respond to phone calls.

Several ministers and government officials have been implicated in the widening graft scandals around the Guptas. One common theme that has emerged is visits to the family’s sprawling Johannesburg property, which is why there has been public anger regarding Nene’s revelations.

Nene has also been praised by commentators for standing up to Zuma on crucial issues.

He told the inquiry he was fired by Zuma in December 2015 for blocking deals that would have benefited the Guptas, particularly a $100 billion nuclear power deal with Russia that could have crippled Africa’s most developed economy.

Nene was reappointed to the post earlier this year by Ramaphosa, who has made clean governance and the kick-starting of an economy mired in recession top priorities.

Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Paul Tait

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