South Africa′s power family, the Guptas: What you need to know | Africa | DW | 08.08.2017
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South Africa's power family, the Guptas: What you need to know

As President Jacob Zuma faced a further vote of no-confidence, his close association with the Gupta business family came under renewed spotlight after thousands of emails were released. Who are the Gupta family?

Ajay und Atul Gupta with Duduzane Zuma in a City Press interview in 2011

Ajay and Atul Gupta with Duduzane Zuma in a City Press interview in 2011

Who are the Gupta family?

The three brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta are businessmen operating in South Africa with close links to President Jacob Zuma and his family. They arrived from India in the 1990s and set up a small computer business before taking large stakes in uranium, gold and coal mines, a luxury game lodge, an engineering company, a newspaper and a 24-hour TV news station.

All three Gupta brothers are reported to be billionaires in the country's rand currency. Atul Gupta was listed by research company Who Owns Whom as the richest person of color in South Africa in December 2016 with 10.7 billion rand (655 million euros, $773 million). Atul arrived in South Africa from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in 1993 selling shoes and computers from the trunk of his car. Rajesh and Ajay followed their brother and in 1997 the family, which already had business interests in India, set up Sahara Computers.

In 2007 Zuma became leader of the African National Congress (ANC) as new laws made it essential for big companies to have black directors - especially if they were bidding for government contracts. President Zuma's son, Duduzane (in photo) began working as a 22-year-old trainee at the Guptas' Sahara Computers and he was quickly appointed to the boards of a number of Gupta companies.

Duduzane is now reported to have direct or indirect holdings in several Gupta-controlled entities including Infinity Media, the holding company for the TV channel ANN7, and mining company Tegeta Exploration & Resources.

President Jacob Zuma and his wife Bongi Ngema

President Jacob Zuma and his wife Bongi Ngema

What are the links to President Zuma?

More than 100,000 emails leaked under the hashtag #GuptaLeaks have been used this year by online news site AmaBhungane to reveal interactions between the Gupta family and the Zumas via associates, a complex network of government contracts, alleged bribes and kickbacks and money laundering.

One of President Zuma's wives and a daughter have also been employed by Gupta companies. One of his daughters was a director at Sahara Computers, and one of his wives worked at the Guptas' JIC Mining Services.

The Guptas are reported to have paid for Duduzane's wedding and for a luxury flat in Dubai.

The opposition Democratic Alliance claims a large part of the government's advertising budget goes through the Gupta family's media outlets.

The #GuptaLeaks emails have not been independently verified but the corruption allegations have led to the popular use of the term "state capture" to describe the Guptas' undue influence of private business interests over government institutions.

State influence

In 2016, a report by South Africa's graft ombudsman alleged the former CEO of electricity utility Eskom Holdings helped the Guptas secure a deal to buy Optimum Coal Holdings from Glencore plc and awarded them favorable coal contracts.

The leaked emails suggest that a Gupta associate allegedly secured 5.3 billion rand ($400 million) in kickbacks from a contract to supply locomotives to the state rail operator Transnet SOC Ltd.

The Guptas have also been accused of influencing the hiring and firing of ministers. Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene had resisted Zuma's plans for the government to build expensive nuclear plants and was removed in 2015, as deputy leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Floyd Shivambu, wrote at the time "to open space for the Gupta-led syndicate to loot state resources for private enrichment."

Atul Gupta runs the family's media empire and denies the accusations which he says have been made on behalf of  "white monopoly capital."

Zuma properties

South Africa's Sunday Times reported in June that the Gupta family had bought Zuma a retirement home in Dubai. The claim was denied by Zuma's office.

The AmaBhungane investigative news site and News24 have also used information from the leaked emails to detail payments made for home loans.

Downward turn

The Guptas had said last year they would exit their South African businesses by the end of 2016: "in the best interests of our business, the country and our colleagues" and while there was circumstantial evidence of family wealth being transferred out of the country, they retain a number of business interests.

Ajay Gupta was appointed to the board of trustees of Brand SA, South Africa's international promotion agency in 2002 and retains the position.

The outlook for the Gupta family took a turn for the worse as the president faced a further vote of no-confidence in August. Four of South Africa's biggest banks closed accounts operated by Gupta-controlled companies in 2016 due to perceived risks of association with the family. In April, the Mumbai-based Bank of Baroda said it too would be closing Gupta accounts.

The Gupta-controlled Oakbay Resources and Energy Ltd. was obliged to delist from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in July after its sponsor and transfer secretary resigned.

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