South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has been blamed of partaking a crooked link with members of the Indian-born Gupta family, and even allowing them to interfere in government appointments.
While both Mr Zuma and the Guptas refute any offence, these allegations are one of the main reasons people forced him to resign.
How did the Guptas come to South Africa?
Brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh (also known as Tony) Gupta, all in their 40s, moved to South Africa from India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh in Saharanpur in 1993, just as white minority rule was ending and the country was opening up to the rest of the world.
When Atul arrived in what was then Africa’s largest economy, he set up the family business Sahara Computers, and he was amazed at the lack of red tape compared to India. They were small businessmen back home but their parent company Sahara Group – which has no links to the Indian giant of the same name – now has an annual turnover of about 200m rand ($22m; £14.3m) and employs some 10,000 people. As well as computers, they have interests in mining, air travel, energy, technology and media.
Atul says they met President Zuma more than 10 years ago “when he was a guest in one of Sahara’s annual functions”.
Did they try to ‘capture’ the state?
The family is accused of wielding enormous political influence in South Africa, with critics alleging that it is trying to “capture the state” to advance its business interests.
The perception grew in March 2016 when Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said that a member of the family had offered to promote him to the minister’s post in 2015. The Guptas denied making the offer, just as they denied an allegation by former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor that she was offered the key post of public enterprise minister during a meeting at their Saxonworld mansion in 2010.
She said that Mr Zuma was at the mansion when the offer was made, while the president says he has no memory of her at all.
But as much as they are alleged to have influenced the hiring of ministers, they are also accused of trying to fire ministers who may have got in the way of their business interests. One of the highest profile among the suspected Gupta-linked firings was former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who later accused the family of being involved in “suspicious” transactions worth about $490m (£400m), which they deny.
A report in South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper which said the Guptas once demanded to be given diplomatic passports suggests they too believed they had political power.
The family argued for the passports on the basis they regularly travelled with President Zuma on business trips abroad “promoting South Africa”, but the request was rejected. The Department of International Relations and Co-operation did not deny the story, while a Gupta spokesman said the reports were “a determined drive to malign the family”.
It is not clear how much money, if any, the Guptas donated to the governing party over the years because political parties are not forced to disclose donations, especially from private sources.
Author: Staff Writer