Mantashe defends the Gupta brothers

2011-03-08 12:01

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has come out in defence of the Gupta brothers, saying the furore over their influence was motivated by racial prejudice.

The Gupta family has been in the news lately because of its alleged influence on President Jacob Zuma and members of his executive.

The Indian-born South African residents have featured in prominent business transactions lately, including stakes in the R9 billion Acerlor-Mittal empowerment deal and the mooted R550 billion rail infrastructure programme. This has prompted speculation that they are using their proximity to Zuma’s family and government to secure business.

Mantashe, however, said there was nothing new in what the Guptas were doing.

It was not a “big deal” when British or Australian companies partnered with black people, he said, but “because of all of a sudden it is the Guptas, it is a big issue”.

“In my view, there’s racial prejudice in this debate,” he said.

Although yesterday’s ANC national working committee meeting had not discussed the Guptas, Mantashe said it had pledged to consider business influence on politics.

“What we should be dealing with is whether business has undue influence in politics. We can’t deal with a family. There is nothing new about the Gupta family that we have not seen before,” he said.

Mantashe also came out in defence of embattled government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi following calls for his dismissal for his comments that coloureds were in “oversupply” in the Western Cape.

The ANC secretary-general said his view was that the criticism levelled against Manyi was motivated by “hatred for change”.

As a leader of the Black Management Forum and Employment Equity Commission, Manyi had been critical of the pace of change in the management of the private sector, where black people are lagging behind their white counterparts.

Mantashe said Manyi was disliked because he touched “a raw nerve”.

Labour minister Mildred Oliphant also addressed the national working committee meeting and assured the ANC that companies would have the choice between complying with national or regional demographics when they complied with employment equity laws.

“In view of this explanation, the national working committee agreed that the current public debate was false and based on disinformation. It reaffirmed the policy of non-racialism and non-sexism as a settled policy of the ANC,” Mantashe said.

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