/ 7 May 2013

The beginners’ guide to the Guptas

Indian businessmen
Indian businessmen

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. As the storm of controversy around the family continues, we give you the lowdown on who’s who in the Guptas, and what their interests are.

The Gupta brothers:

Ajay Gupta – the older brother
Business position: Non-executive chairperson, Vusizwe Media

Five facts

  • He holds no financial stake in the family business
  • As the head of the family he formulates their business strategies and controls the finances
  • He has been described as the final decision maker
  • He was the last brother to arrive in South Africa – he still holds Indian citizenship
  • He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from JV Jain Degree College in India
  • 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%

    Five facts

    • He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from JV Jain Degree College in India
    • He has been described as the “nuts-and-bolts” man when it comes to his role in the family business
    • He is a South African citizen – he relinquished his Indian citizenship
    • He arrived in South Africa in 1993
    • He is the brains behind Sahara Holdings

    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

    Five facts

  • His brother Atul has described him as “very close friends” with Duduzane Zuma
  • Together with Duduzane, they have a joint interest in Mabengela Investments, which is part of a consortium of black investors
  • He is a South African citizen
  • He has a Bachelor of Science degree from JV Jain Degree College in India
  • He joined the Gupta business in South Africa in 1997

    Gupta companies

    Sahara Holdings

    Five facts

    • Houses the family’s IT interests
    • It was started in 1997 but only became known as Sahara in 2000 – it’s named after their hometown, Saharanpur, India
    • It made a R1-billion turnover in the 2010 financial year
    • It has naming rights at Durban’s Kingsmead Oval and St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth.
    • It has no formal link to the Indian-based Sahara, sponsors of the Indian cricket team

    Oakbay Investments

    Five facts

  • It is the family’s investment vehicle and operates a number of businesses in the mining sector
  • It’s the major owner of Oakbay Resources and Energy
  • Oakbay Resources and Energy together with empowerment group Islandsite Investments 255 own Shiva Uranium
  • It owns a 60.7% stake in JIC Mining Services and holds a 5% stake in Comair, the JSE-listed owner of kulula.com
  • Under the banner of this name is the Oakbay Trust which holds the family’s stake in Afripalm Holdings and Afripalm Resources belonging to Lazarus Zim

    TNA Media

    Five facts

    • It publishes the New Age newspaper
    • The paper is said to favour an editorial policy of constructive criticism, rather than an investigative one
    • The family has a two-thirds stake through Sahara Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Oakbay Investments
    • The Times of India newspaper, through the Bennet Coleman company, has a 7% stake and an empowerment consortium has 26%
    • A day before the newspaper was scheduled to launch in October 2010, five of its senior editorial team resigned, allegedly due to a crippling lack of resources and a showdown over the launch date.

    JIC Mining Services

    Five facts

    • A contract mining and services company
    • The family bought it in 2005/06
    • It was owned by Tokyo Sexwale’s Mvelaphanda
    • Oakbay holds a 61% stake
    • Duduzane Zuma is listed as a non-executive director in the company

    Vusizwe Media
    Publishes the Thinker journal – edited and founded by former minister in the presidency, Essop Pahad

    Other stakes

    • Afripalm Technology: 12.1%
    • Dunrose Investments 180: 12.1%
    • Pyramid Trading Eleven: 2.8%
    • Comair (JSE-listed owner of kulula.com): 5%, through Oakbay

    * 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.

    The  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.

    This week  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  Thinkerreceived 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.

    Previously the  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.