Ramaphosa, Rajesh Gupta and the other ‘dead presidents’


It’s been a year since the birth — allegedly — of the Tembisa Ten. A whole 12 months later and there is still no sign of the little ones.

With the passage of time — and events of the past week — I’m starting to believe that we have more chance of seeing the Brothers Gupta in person than we do of hearing the pitter-patter of 20 tiny feet.

Not that the return of the former South African president Rajesh Gupta and his finance minister, Atul, will be swift but one remains hopeful that the state’s attempt to extradite them from their bolt hole in Dubai  — unlike the Ten — will eventually materialise.

Their arrest by Interpol on Friday, four months after a red notice was issued, doesn’t mean the Brothers G will be back in South Africa in time for Christmas but there’s a decent chance they’ll be here in time for the Tens’ second birthday.

It would be a lovely touch if Tony and Atul made their less-than-triumphant return through the Waterkloof Air Force base they commandeered for landing the family’s wedding guests back in 2013 — but with no red carpet and state protocol officers this time around.


Orange overalls instead of wedding kurtas.

Steel handcuffs rather than mendi.

Katkop and black tea, as opposed to Hyderabadi biryani and soji.

A blue-light escort to Sun City — just not the same Sun City the Brothers G and their 200 guests from India were whisked to the first time they touched down at Waterkloof.


Perhaps a fair number of those who attended the wedding might end up sharing a cell with the Guptas at the other Sun City, once the wheels of justice get rolling and the state capture brigade finally face the music.

That would be lovely — a reunion, of sorts, of the celebrants of 2013 — a collective renewal of the vows, as it were, for the Brothers G and their former supplicants; together, joined, for better and for worse; richer or poorer; till death — or parole — do us part.

Granted, the accommodation will be neither the presidential nor the honeymoon suite — no ballroom, swimming pool or room service either — but times have, after all, changed.

President Cyril Ramaphosa must have been pleased when news of the Guptas being arrested in the United Arab Emirates broke on Monday night — anything to divert attention from the presidential side hustles, even for an hour or two.

It was no secret that the head of state made extra money from animal farming — selling buffaloes and other exotic beasts at nauseatingly high prices — but I had no idea that Ramaphosa had a second off-the-books gig as a forex trader.

As soon as I heard that Ramaphosa was a forex trader, I blocked him on Facebook, president or not.

It was only a matter of time till that inboxed invitation to join some online trading platform or other arrived, so I unfriended Cyril, from Bela Bela, lives in NYC, before the inevitable happened and he tried to hustle me.

Seemingly, R3-million-plus a year — no bond, no petrol, unlimited free flights locally and abroad, no medical aid contributions, not to mention what he made in the private sector back in the Glencore days — isn’t enough for the president to live on if he has to come up with not one, but two side hustles to keep him going.

Who’d have thought?

Perhaps the president isn’t as rich as everybody believes he is.

Perhaps he is rolling in the billions and he just likes money, a lot of it, all of the time.

Perhaps buffalo food is really expensive —  it must cost, after all, to keep up with Christo.

It must be rough, having to hold down three jobs, long after retirement age has come and gone.

I struggle with one job.

Perhaps I lack ambition?

I wonder when the president sleeps, given his commitment to the grind, his dedication to the dollar.

And when Ramaphosa does get a bit of a lie down, in the wee hours of the morning when all three hustles are on hold, does the money he has stashed under the mattress hurt his back?

The one positive thing to come from the president’s latest money scandal is that we now know, unequivocally, that Ramaphosa doesn’t have any skeletons — smallanyana or otherwise — in his cupboard. There’s no room, they’re already bulging with hundred-dollar bills.

“Dead Presidents”, baby.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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