S. Africa to Intervene to Save Oakbay Jobs, Minister Zwane Says

South Africa’s government will step in to save jobs at the Gupta family-owned Oakbay Investments Ltd. that are at risk after commercial banks stopped doing business with the company, even if it means creating a state lender, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said.

“We will never allow a situation where the private sector will dictate to government on how to run this country,” Zwane told reporters at a labor union briefing on Friday in Pretoria, the capital. “We will continue to deal with this matter and even if it means government coming up with a state bank, we will do so.”

FirstRand Ltd.’s First National Bank, Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Nedbank Group Ltd. said in April that they will shut accounts related to companies controlled by the Gupta family-controlled Oakbay. The Guptas are accused by critics of using their friendship with President Jacob Zuma to exert influence over political appointments. Oakbay Chief Executive Officer Nazeem Howa said the steps are unfair and unprecedented, and threaten 7,500 jobs at its mining and media units.

Some banks have responded to the government’s efforts to discuss the closing of the account, Zwane said, declining to identify the lenders. South Africa’s cabinet directed three ministers, including Zwane, to meet with the banks to discuss the decisions.

Zwane came under criticism for meeting with Glencore Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg in Switzerland before an Oakbay unit bought the Optimum coal mine from the Swiss company. The minister has denied giving the Guptas any preferential treatment, saying he was only trying to preserve jobs.

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