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07 May 2013 11:14
Ajay Gupta (left) and Atul Gupta. (Martin Rhodes, Gallo)
The Guptas practically became household names after
repeated exposés, started by the M&G.
But where did they come from?
Ajay, Atol and Rajesh Gupta
came to South Africa from Saharanpur, India, sent by Shiv Kumar, their businessman father, to explore business opportunities in the country. Atul was the first to arrive in 1993 and was later followed by his brothers.
Rajesh was the last to arrive in 1997.
Soon after their arrival they established Sahara Computers, named after their hometown.
When the politically connected Guptas landed a chartered jet carrying 200-odd wedding guests at Waterkloof Air Force Base, a national keypoint, without anyone seeming to know who had authorised the landing, political heavyweights who had long ignored the comfortable connections between the Guptas and the ruling elite were forced to examine the relationship in the light of day.
With their high-profile and politically-connected business interests, the family has earned the ire of many.
The Gupta brothers:
Ajay Gupta – the older brother
Business position: Non-executive chairperson, Vusizwe Media
Atul Gupta – the middle brother
Business position: Managing director, Sahara Holdings, non-executive director, Comair, executive chairperson, TNA Media.
Stakes: Sahara Holdings: 16%, Oakbay Investments: 30%, Islandsite Investment: 25% Oakbay Investments: 40%
Rajesh (Tony) Gupta – the younger brother
Business position: Director, Mabengela, director, Islandsite Investments 255, director – Afripalm Horizons
Stakes: 25%: Islandsite Investment’s, 40%: Oakbay Investments
JIC Mining Services
Publishes the Thinker journal – edited and founded by former minister in the presidency, Essop Pahad
Percentages quoted as per reports from 2011.
Rumblings that some in the ANC and its alliance partners are dissatisfied with the power wielded by the controversial Gupta family – who are said to
often summon Cabinet ministers and senior state officials to their home in Saxonwold – have been going on for years.
M&G first reported on the growing unease over the relationship between the Gupta brothers – Atul, Ajay and Rajesh – with President Jacob Zuma back in 2010, when the Guptas monopolised Zuma’s time during a state visit to India.
In early 2011, Cosatu raised concerns about the increasing number of big government deals being made “in a suspicious manner” and singled out the Guptas as targets for an investigation. While he did not accuse the Guptas of corruption per se, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini
complained that their dealings with the state were creating a negative “perception” that reflected badly on the country. It Is unclear what happened to the investigation.
At the time ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe
defended the Guptas, saying criticism of their political influence was driven by “racial prejudice”.
But when the politically connected Guptas landed a chartered jet carrying 200-odd wedding guests at Waterkloof Air Force Base, a national keypoint, without anyone seeming to know who had authorised the landing, political heavyweights who had long ignored the comfortable connections between the Guptas and the ruling elite were forced to examine the relationship in the light of day.
Mantashe was reported to have fallen out with Zuma over the incident, with the Star reporting that he had raised the issue of the Guptas influence privately in the past.
The three-day wedding of 23-year-old Vega Gupta, daughter of the Guptas’ sister Achla, to her Indian fiancé Aakash Jahajgarhia had barely got underway when three separate state entities – the department of defence, department of international relations and the South African Revenue Services –
called high level inquiries into how the Guptas jet came to land at the airforce base.
The guest list at the wedding showed some of the Gupta’s connections. It
reportedly included ministers of key portfolios, such as Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba and Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor.
Despite the diplomatic fallout, deputy international affairs minister Ebrahim Ebrahim also attended the wedding as did former government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi
who once defended ministers who attended the Guptas at their home and berated reporters who asked questions about the visits saying they were being “unethical”.
Also in attendance was Essop Pahad, former minister in the presidency under Thabo Mbeki, who serves on the board of Sahara Holdings. Pahad once held a seat on the board of TNA Media. His magazine, the
Thinker, received funding from the Guptas.
Gigaba’s attendance at the wedding has raised eyebrows, given the
recent Sunday Times report that sacked SAA chairperson Vuyisile Kona was allegedly offered R500 000 by Rajesh “Tony” Gupta, after being invited to a meeting at the Gupta’s Saxonwold home by one of Gigaba’s special advisors, Siyabonga Mahlangu.
According to the
Sunday Times, Duduzane Zuma, son of President Jacob Zuma, and Tshepiso Magashule, the son of Free State Premier Ace Magashule, also attended the meeting.
Duduzane, who has close business ties to the Guptas and is linked to several Gupta companies, also attended the wedding, as did the Free State premier, whose son Tshepiso is employed by Mabengela Investments, a company owned by Rajesh Gupta and Duduzane.
Earlier this year, the M&G reported that Mabengela appears to be the vehicle for the Zuma family’s empowerment by the Gupta family.
According to staff at the resort, first lady Bongi Ngema-Zuma, who works as head of communications and marketing at the Gupta’s mining firm JIC Mining Services, also attended the wedding, as did two of Zuma’s other wives and the president’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma.
Although invited, Zuma did not himself attend the wedding. He kept a low profile as the public furore over the Waterkloof landing unfolded.
Also not at the wedding was Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille who distanced herself from the Guptas after it was
revealed that she received a R200 000 donation from a senior executive in one of the Guptas’ companies. Zille insisted that the money was not from the Guptas but from a private donor and was therefore fair game.
The dream wedding saw allegations of racism and sexual assault of staff at Sun City, where the event was held, surface. Following the departure of the wedding guests, and the ongoing political and diplomatic scandal, the Guptas issued a
“general apology” to the authorities, the public and their guests.
Sunday Times reported that the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma – the president’s son – were directors and shareholders in a deal with China Railway Construction Corporation in which they stood to benefit from the government’s R550-billion rail infrastructure programme.
The Chinese deal follows the controversial ArcelorMittal R9-billion empowerment deal in which the Gupta brothers and Duduzane are set to benefit at least R3.2-billion if the deal goes through.
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