Guptas 'are proudly SA citizens'

Cape Town - The Gupta family may be disposing all stakes in their multibillion-rand business empire in South Africa, but they will not be relocating, a spokesperson for the family confirmed.

Nevertheless, a brand expert says it should provoke a sigh of relief.

Family spokesperson Gary Naidoo told Fin24 that there has been a misconception that the family will be leaving the shores of the country.

"They are not leaving at all. They are still proudly South African citizens."

The Guptas announced that they will be divesting all business interests in the country.

It will pull out of holding company Oakbay Investments, which includes coal mining firm Tegeta, Sahara Computers, JIC mining services, Clifftop safari lodge, a television news channel ANN7 and the New Age newspaper.

"As a family, we now believe that the time is right for us to exit our shareholding of the South African businesses which we believe will benefit our existing employees, and lead to further growth in the businesses," they said in a statement on Saturday.

This follows a move in April by brothers Atul and Varun stepping down as non-executive chairperson and chief executive officer of Oakbay Resources. At the same time, President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane Zuma resigned as a non-executive director of Shiva Uranium.

Business has been booming

"Since our decision to step down from all executive and non-executive positions in all our South African business in April 2016, the local management team has grown our businesses from strength to strength, with turnover and profits showing good growth and more jobs created.”

The family said they were already in discussions with several prospective international buyers and would soon make further announcements.

Earlier this year Oakbay Resources risked being suspended from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange after it lost Sasfin Bank as a sponsor, KPMG as an auditor and banks Barclays Africa Group, First National Bank and Standard Bank.

Although the Guptas have been dogged by allegations of holding sway over the president for their own means, including claims that they were involved in making Cabinet appointments, the family have always vehemently denied this.

Eyeing the money

"We have no interest in politics, only business,” the family reiterated in a separate statement in response to a News24 report regarding the alleged comments by Finance Minister Gordhan to his Treasury Staff, about the Gupta family.

Gordhan allegedly told Treasury staff at a meeting that the Guptas were attacking him because of the work his department was doing.

"The Guptas divesting from South Africa should provoke a sigh of relief," Solly Moeng, brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley, told Fin24.

"We should ask, how much did they invest, as in bring, into South Africa, in the first place? By how much did they benefit from Zuma’s largesse through state owned companies such as SAA, Eskom, Transnet, etc.? How does that compare to what they brought in?"

Moeng pointed out that, from what has been reported about the Guptas, they may be a thorn in the side of the country.

'Guptas - a headache for SA'

"Everything that we have heard about the Guptas thus far - their total disregard of the corporate governance rules that have been carefully put around our institutions, and their seeming belief that being friends of the President gives them the right to behave as if they own this country – is enough to conclude that they have been more of a headache than a benefit to our young democracy."

He said the country, its Constitution and its people should be protected. "This cannot happen while the Guptas continue enjoying the laissez faire granted to them by Zuma," Moeng claimed.

"This democracy is still young and, in some instances, fragile, we should protect it from the likes of the Guptas and those who are already under their clutches, and build it for all South Africans, irrespective of political allegiance, religious, ethnic, and racial background."    

Moeng added that relevant state institutions should ensure that the Guptas are thoroughly audited and that they do not take resources out of the country that should remain here.

Dealings under the microscope

The Democratic Alliance vowed to monitor the multiple probes into the Guptas and the businesses controlled by them. These include:
- an investigation by the Hawks into alleged corruption;
- an investigation by the Financial Intelligence Centre into alleged money laundering;
- an investigation by the South African Reserve Bank relating to the termination of business relationships with certain banks; and
- numerous investigations by National Treasury into alleged corruption relating to their business dealings with state-owned companies including Denel, Eskom and Transnet.
"We will not back down and will do everything to ensure that the various investigations being conducted into the Gupta family’s businesses are concluded and that the results of those investigations are made public," said DA MP David Maynier in a statement.

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