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South African official says influential family offered him government post

A wealthy family with connections to President Jacob Zuma has been accused of controlling top government jobs in South Africa. Politician Mcebisi Jonas said the family's actions made a "mockery" of democracy.

Mcebisi Jonas (pictured, right), a South African government official, said on Wednesday that he had declined an offer by the Gupta family to replace ousted Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, a move he called undemocratic.

"The basis of my rejection of their offer is that it makes a mockery of our hard-earned democracy," Jonas, the deputy finance minister, said in a statement. "No one apart from the president of the republic appoints ministers."

The Guptas moved to South Africa from India more than a decade ago and have built up a small empire of successful companies. They also have close ties to the country's president, Jacob Zuma, who has come under fire after the former finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, was sacked in December.

'Political point scoring'

Zuma first replaced Nene with David van Rooyen, a little-known official with no financial background, a move that sparked an immediate political and financial backlash and led the president to replace him with the more established Pravin Gordhan (pictured, left).

The president will answer questions from the country's parliament on Thursday over the matter of the Guptas, who are said by critics to have influenced the appointment of other officials.

The family issued a statement on Wednesday, denying Jonas' allegations and arguing that the controversy was "just more political point scoring between rival factions within the ANC," referring to the African National Congress, Zuma's party.

blc/kms (AP, AFP)

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