A senior South African government official says a wealthy family close to President Jacob Zuma offered him a Cabinet position in what the official calls "a mockery of our hard earned democracy."

Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said Wednesday that members of the Gupta family, which has extensive business interests in South Africa, asked him to replace Nhlanhla Nene, who was sacked in December in a move that rattled markets and raised questions about Zuma's leadership.

Jonas says he rejected the offer from the Guptas. The deputy finance minister says that only the South African president can appoint ministers.

Nene was replaced by a ruling party lawmaker, and then by Pravin Gordhan, who had previously held the finance minister's post and whose appointment brought a measure of relief to markets.