Institutions rush to Zuma's defence over Gupta deals

The ANC, its women’s league, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) and the Cabinet all leapt to President Jacob Zuma’s defence this week following media reports of growing ANC resentment of the Gupta family’s business relationship with Zuma’s son, Duduzane, and alleged influence in the ruling party.

The MKMVA went so far as to publicly attack ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s “populist outburst” on the subject.

In contrast, the South African Communist Party threw its weight behind Cosatu’s plan, announced last week, to launch an independent investigation into allegations that Zuma’s relatives and the Gupta family are plundering the economy.

The allegations have caused great discomfort in the alliance and government circles and are likely to deepen divisions in the ANC ahead of its conference next year.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the Guptas summoned ministers to their multimillion-rand family compound in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, and issued instructions to them.

Women’s league spokesperson Edna Molewa said that she saw nothing wrong with the Zuma family benefiting from deals facilitated by the government.

“Why don’t we have the same noise about other government-facilitated deals involving other business people?” asked Molewa, saying that she found it hard to believe insinuations that Zuma could not make his own decisions.

ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu said: “As president, Zuma has every right to maintain good relations with all sectors of society, including members of the business community.

“The Guptas are business people like any others and operate within the laws of the country.

“They have taken an extraordinary step by agreeing to subject themselves to public scrutiny, which should be welcomed.”
MKMVA national chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe accused certain media houses, Cabinet ministers and senior ANC officials of peddling unfounded allegations about the Guptas and Zuma’s family.

Singling out Malema, Maphatsoe said the youth leader’s “populist outburst” and “irresponsible ramblings” were meant to score cheap points against Zuma at the expense of ANC unity.

Speaking at the ANC manifesto launch at the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg last Sunday, Malema, without mentioning Zuma or the Guptas, lashed out at families that enrich themselves in the name of freedom.

With Zuma sitting behind him on the stage Malema said South Africa was “not a democracy of families; this is a democracy of the people of the country”.

ANCYL spokesperson Floyd ­Shivambu said: “We don’t know the Guptas. We’re raising these issues as a matter of principle.”
Shivambu said it would be unfortunate if the allegations about the Guptas were true.

“If we create an impression that only those in power can accumulate wealth we are setting a dangerous precedent.”
SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin said that although the SACP had never discussed the Guptas it had raised the general principle of undue influence of business in the political sphere.

The SACP saw nothing wrong with Cosatu’s independent investigation.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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