If more people acted the way the Gupta family do South Africa would be a better place, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) said on Monday, while decrying what it called a conspiracy by the media and opposition parties to besmirch the controversial family’s name with lies.
That conspiracy was playing into the hands of those who wish to see “regime change” in South Africa, the association said.
“We call on our people to seek facts, be vigilant and reject falsehoods that are peddled to benefit the rabid, revolutionary-sounding reactionaries,” said the association’s chairperson, Kebby Maphatsoe, on behalf of the group’s national working committee.
The committee had asked for a meeting with the Gupta family after the Economic Freedom Fighters last week called on the family to leave South Africa.
Maphatsoe told journalists at the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters in Johannesburg “to get the facts from them as the association”.
Those critical of the Gupta’s involvement with Eskom – by way of the acquisition of coal miner Tegeta from Glencore through listed company Oakbay Resources – “incite violence, which will destroy rather than build our economy”, said Maphatsoe.
“They do the dirty work of the international cartels, and hope to hoodwink the masses to take up the battle against the ANC, its president and, indeed, the Gupta family, whose model of empowerment costs the state nothing, but challenges the stereotypes of BEE [black economic empowerment], which has benefited the few at our government’s expense.”
When the Mail & Guardian pointed out that Oakbay had relied on a loan from the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation to fund more than 92% of the cash portion of its purchase of a uranium mine, Maphatsoe said he was speaking only of the Glencore deal and could not respond to other instances.
Maphatsoe could not immediately quantify the value of the stake the MKMVA holds in Gupta-controlled assets. In 2011, the association said the Gupta family had donated shares worth some R250-million to it, but available information suggested it may have significantly overestimated the value of the shares at the time.
That business relationship, which the association did not disclose in its statement, did not represent any conflict of interest, Maphatsoe said. It only served to illustrate the singular benevolence of the Gupta family.
“It is only the Guptas that came to us and said: ‘Here is an opportunity for you as MKMVA.’ And we are very happy,” he said of the relationship. “So there is no conflict of interest in that. In fact, we are looking for more companies to give shares to MK … as long as it is done in a transparent and correct way. We are not going to do business with people who are corrupt. We are not going to do business with people who are not transparent to us, transparent to us and to our country.”
Maphatsoe, who is also the deputy minister of defence and military veterans, is best known for calling public protector Thuli Madonsela a CIA spy in 2014, an assertion he later apologised for.