Gupta influence not new or unprecedented - analysts

2016-03-18 09:05
Atul Gupta (File, Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

Atul Gupta (File, Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - The Gupta family's perceived influence on the affairs of state is not new or unprecedented, according to political analyst Ebrahim Fakir.

Fakir was reacting to Wednesday's statement by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas that he was offered the job of finance minister by the Guptas ahead of Nhlanhla Nene's surprise removal.

It was not the first time the politically connected family, which is said to have strong ties with Zuma and other ANC leaders, has been accused of influencing government decisions or positions.

However, Fakir said this was not unprecedented and occurred in all democracies.

- Watch: When Zuma met Gupta - a family history

"The Guptas are doing something every business person or family does - they are buying influence and they are exercising that influence.

"We asked for a democracy, we got a democracy, and these people organise themselves doing this. They're just rude, they're crude, they're brash, they're all of those things, as are the people who allow them to do so."

Although it was not the first time a wealthy business person or family were seen to be exerting influence, the Guptas seemed to be doing it in a different way, said Fakir.

Others who exercised their influence would usually also serve a public interest, whether it was by contributing to economic growth, investing or making new products and services available. What the country was seeing now only seemed to benefit those exerting the influence, said Fakir.

"The thing is this corporate capture doesn't seem to be having any of those benefits. They only benefit that narrow slice of people, so it's capture in its worst sense."

Fakir said the Guptas had not begun "flourishing" under Zuma, but under then president Thabo Mbeki.

He also questioned why those who were speaking out now had waited so long to do so. If they were committed to the interests of the country, they would have done it sooner and informed the ANC.

At least Jonas had taken less than a fortnight to confirm the allegations, Fakir said.


On speculation that the ANC would recall Zuma at its three day national executive meeting at the weekend, Fakir said it was difficult to say whether it would do so, even though it had the grounds to remove him.

All the reasons used to recall Mbeki, were also present under Zuma.

These included meddling in state institutions and excluding the party machinery and alliance partners on policy making, he said.

"Zuma is doing exactly the same things... but the labour movement has been decimated even worse under Zuma than it was under Mbeki and the alliance partners seem to be more marginalised than they were under Mbeki."

There were additional reasons why Zuma should be recalled, including Nkandla and the controversy surrounding Sudanese president Omar al Bashir's visit to South Africa, he said.

Moreover, Zuma had presided over a net loss of popular support in three consecutive elections from 2009.

"The rationale for recalling him is clear and substantial," said Fakir.

Although the Guptas and their relationship with the state will be on the NEC agenda, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday that no one had asked that Zuma's recall be included.

It is believed that the ANC is loath to recall a second president and do so before the local government elections.

However, Fakir believes recalling a second president would show that the party was consistent and genuinely concerned about the common interest of everyone in the country

Rating agencies would also view this positively for the same reasons, he said.

ANC 'on precarious ground'

In her reaction, political analyst Susan Booysen said the ANC could no longer fool itself or the country into thinking there were no problems.

This was why Jonas's decision to go public was significant. Some senior ANC leaders such as Derek Hanekom and Rob Davies have also come out in support of him.

Whether more ANC leaders would do so remained to be seen, said Booysen.

Mantashe has urged anyone with similar experiences to speak up.

However, Booysen said there were many who would rather "go down with the ship", because "they know they are not clean so they might as well stay on as long as they can because they cannot say I did not accept the offer of the Guptas".

She questioned how citizens could be sure that the policy decisions of the Zuma administration over the last few years, were taken in the best interest of the country and "not in the best interest of the Guptas and an elite few".

It was time the ANC took decisive action as it was on precarious ground, she said.

Meanwhile, during presidential question time in the National Assembly on Thursday, Zuma reiterated that Cabinet ministers and deputies were appointed by him and not by the Guptas or anybody else.

Zuma said the Guptas should be asked about the allegations.

"Go ask the Guptas, and Jonas, it has nothing to do with me. Where do I come in? Ask the people he said offered him the job," he said.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  gupta family  |  politics

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