Zuma-Gupta link causes worry

2011-03-06 13:56

Johannesburg - With fractured race relations setting the country aflame last week, ANC leaders are worried that the prominent influence and reported enrichment of the Gupta family can inflame anti-Indian opinion. And a second grouping leading the political argument against President Jacob Zuma’s close association with the family fears a return to “pre-Polokwane” practices.

“You cannot have a president made by a small group of businessmen like (former President Thabo) Mbeki,” said a member of the ANC national working committee.

On Saturday, government sought to stamp out the Gupta story by cautioning the media from asking Cabinet members if they had visited the family’s Johannesburg home – which one government adviser alleged rivals the party’s Luthuli House as a centre of decision-making.

A Gauteng ANC thought-leader said the first wave of Indian immigrants were indentured ­labourers while a second wave were merchants. The post-apartheid era had brought a third wave of sophisticated and monied immigrants who were benefiting from South Africa’s globalised economy and access to diplomatic links. This wave was symbolised by the Guptas.

“The way the third wave is behaving, the national question (the ANC’s skilful management of race relations) is in grave danger. The danger is that Indian people’s contribution to the struggle will be endangered,” he said. Three Indian ANC senior leaders who hold elected and party positions agree.

The recession, as well as the end of Mbeki’s presidency, has meant that BEE has lost its ­political support and that the flow of deals has virtually dried up. Black business feels excluded and is relaying the message to its ­political supporters.

“You have to be careful,” warned a former member of the ANC, who disagrees that the Gupta factor imperils race relations. “It’s easy to whip up anti-Indian backlash. But why are they not complaining about ­Walmart [the US retailer about to take over Massmart]?”

The Guptas and BEE

The Gupta family says it has never benefited from BEE but has, in fact, been a sponsor of BEE deals. Neither does it have a portfolio of big tenders.

According to them, their business interests lie in mining, infrastructure and publishing where the state’s role is important either through licensing, diplomatic links or advertising.

The family is ace at building relationships with politicians and parleying that influence for long-term growth.

When asked if the apocryphal tale that he had the president on speed dial was true, Ajay Gupta offered us his BlackBerry to check. We didn’t. But from a three-hour interview this week, it’s clear they have a network that must be the envy of most other South African businesses.

The family provided photographs to show that since their arrival in South Africa in 1993, they have always been politically popular and that their star did not rise with ­Zuma’s appointment as ANC president in 2007.

The view that Zuma is facing a political battle disguised as an anti-Gupta lobby was repeated several times by Cabinet members who believe the family factor is “overblown” by losing bidders, losing appointees and by business rivals.

An ANC revolt?

The Sunday Times reported last week that the president faced an ANC revolt about the influence of the family which, it said, had inside knowledge of party decisions and debates. “It plays into the myth of the president (and the influence of the) Indian businessman,” said a minister.

Zuma has high-profile relationships with Schabir Shaik, Vivian Reddy and the Guptas.

ANC members as well as labour federation Cosatu have, over the past fortnight, also reportedly raised concerns that Zuma is not consulting sufficiently on appointments like that of Brian Molefe as CEO of Transnet and that of Lazarus Zim as Telkom chairperson.

Zim is a business partner of the Gupta family while Molefe is an associate. The post-Polokwane era also promised the ­alliance leaders far greater leverage on deployments.

And now they feel left out. “It’s a backlash from constituencies that lost out,” the minister said, adding that reputations were always being besmirched in the new politics of the ANC.

“Molefe was first said to be a Cope member, then he was Trevor Manuel’s boy [Molefe worked at the treasury]. Now he’s a Gupta boy.”

But a national working committee member said it was not a race issue. “It’s not an Indian thing, it’s the re-emergence of a trend we defeated in Polokwane.

Beware a new kitchen cabinet

Under Mbeki, there were a select few getting deals because of access to the president. “Saki Macozoma [former ANC NEC member and business luminary]; Bulelani Ngcuka,[former prosecutions head and later prominent businessman]; and Smuts Ngonyama [former head of the Presidency at the ANC and a businessman] all benefited from Mbeki,” he said.

These men, said the leader, had political as well as business power. One of them had allegedly scuppered the appointment of Ngoako Ramatlhodi as successor to Ngcuka. ANC members do not want a return to a political culture where decisions were made by a kitchen cabinet of ­favoured elites.

“ANC members are moaning and groaning. This thing is going to explode,” said an official at Luthuli House.

An NEC member added that ANC leadership had never meant family enrichment. “[Former President Nelson Mandela] set a good example. He didn’t give his family business. [Now] you go to China and talk about infrastructure and the next thing your family benefits. What does that say to the public?” This week, the Gupta schism in the governing party exploded publicly.

The MK Military Veterans Association shot down ANC Youth League president Julius Malema for making an allegedly covert critique of the Gupta family and its associations with Duduzane Zuma. The veterans denied they were acting out of self-interest because they are the Gupta’s chosen BEE partners.

The veteran association’s chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe said they supported Zuma as a former soldier. He said the current row was started by people who wanted to “make the president unpopular” ahead of the party’s elective conference next year.

Responding to reports that ministers were called by the Guptas, Maphatsoe said: “Ministers know where the centre lies – in the ANC and in government. If I’m appointed a minister I cannot be summoned by anyone except the president.”

End note: City Press practice is not to rely solely on anonymous sources. But for Maphatsoe, no sources would speak on the record. We interviewed 12 people, drawn from multiple levels of ANC leadership


  • - 2011-03-06 14:11

    Very interesting article. One has to look no further than ICT Trading and the Kumba debacle to find concrete evidence of the daylight robbery that is taking place. Always feathering the nest once of the few in the network. Once again African leadership lets down the majority that votes it in!!

  • Slapper - 2011-03-06 14:14

    Too late, a corrupt bunch got into Bed with a very clever corrupt bunch. Now, because of the remaining media freedom, and only because of this, they are learning that you can keep anything secret (see Sheik). The World knows which side is up and all the spin doctors in the ANC can not change this. Not only has it come out that there has been shady dealings, but also its again shown how incredibly stupid the ANC really is.

  • Mxhuma - 2011-03-06 14:31

    Oh! Zuma. Why must you continue to be associated with dodgy characters. And these relationships have something to do with money. Why? Do we have a Mafia operating in this country? Is Shabir Sheik still terminally ill and alive?I am really worried.

      Kenko - 2011-03-06 14:43

      Zuma will plead innocent to all allegations and claim that Shaik is terminally ill - contrary to what we all see on a daily basis. Shaik healthy enough to play golf and assault a journalist, and Zuma's fat pig son becoming a billionaire overnight. The list goes on and on.

      GT - 2011-03-06 17:28

      He is not associating with dodgy characters, HE IS DODGY!!! Why is everyone so surprised by this when we know that he has a history of this behavior?

  • BlackSwan - 2011-03-06 15:29

    Zuma-Gupta link??? There's no link!!! Jimmy said so on the news

  • Fred - 2011-03-06 15:31

    This must be the most corrupt government in the world. The only good thing is that all the pigs trying to get their snouts in the trough are going to start eating each other soon. The splitting of the ANC can't happen quickly enough.

      BlackSwan - 2011-03-06 15:41

      probably not the most corrupt - there are stats showing it not to be, but they must close to the dumbest motley crue

  • schjus008 - 2011-03-06 16:19

    If one can't vote the government out then what can one do? ? ?

  • jkoorts - 2011-03-06 16:19

    revolt anyone?

  • Sword&Cross - 2011-03-06 16:31

    A R500Billion rail deal. HOW MUCH capital are the Gupta's investing? How much capital has Duduzane Zuma invested? HOW MUCH CAPITAL WILL RSA TAXPAYERS INVEST through various carefully channeled and laundered means via the ANC and it's connected cadres? AND how much return will get back to these investors and WHEN & WHERE? HOW MUCH BENEFIT will citizens of SA and surrounding nations derive? THAT is what business is all about.

      Phlegm - 2011-03-06 17:03

      Boet, Zuma currently has 3 wives and has paid lobola for another two, the child count is on 20? (I think) His annual salary is ~ ZAR 2 800 000 (and all he can steal!) The taxpayer pays a further ~ ZAR 16 000 000 for his family He has 6 presidential properties (that cost 70 million to maintain last year) And who knows how many other costs there are that we are not aware of? How the hell do you expect the guy to survive financially once he leaves the presidency, he is investing in his retirement by keeping the wealth in the family.

  • Colin Dovey - 2011-03-06 16:43

    All that is "coming to light" now, was what was happening undercover within the Zooooma Shake-it-up alliance. That cabal has never stopped, except that it now expanding exponentially. What was/is the connection between the Shaik's and Gupta? We have reason to be terrified, really terrified by our future prospects. What concerns me is that they are really devious - all you need to look at Zooooma's body language when he shakes hand in public - his right hand covers the top of the other person, and it quietly says volumes of what his true intentions are. Even Sarkozy was taken in by him in France.....clever bussthard. Actually, not clever - just devious.

  • Zeus - 2011-03-06 18:50

    So whats new! This happens in all democracies! Just Ask Bush,Thatcher and Yeltsin!

  • Bilaal - 2011-03-07 08:47

    It is very sad that we south africans r tricked by a President turned conman. Its abt tym we stand up and say enaf is enaf with favours 2 frnds frm da government scofas. Can 1 family of da Zumas dry mzansi 4 da benefit of frnds? Ag voetsek man!

  • Paulistos - 2011-03-09 08:07

    Machiavelli was said: In every country were democracy was an order of the day, then you must know that that country is doomed for corruption of the highest order. Under everything that he has done, the cloud of corruption on top of his head, he emerged in polokwane and he will emerge again in the ANC CENTENARY. The removal of Mbeki in polokwane meant one thing and one thing only, Its time for the uneducated, the exilists, illiterates to eat. This is not something new, its a trend in all Africans states, the African countries to get liberated before us, the likes of Uganda, Nigeria, Congo, Angola. All African leaders are controlled by a remote, Zuma happens to be one of them.Our country is reaching a dead end

  • soobhan - 2011-04-03 00:22

    It is so obvious to anyone that the relationship of Zuma and his family with the Shaiks and the Guptas is corrupt and it was proved in court in the case of Shaik. Time will come for the Guptas - wait and see. Zuma had on numerous occasions made statements that he wanted his day in court when he was charged for corruption with Shaik but instead he hired the best lawyers to protect from the courts.-then the charges are dropped-phew what more can i say. From Soobhan

  • soobhan - 2011-04-03 00:44

    How many people realize that our national highway has been hijacked and transformed into toll roads? Now we must pay exorbitant toll fees to use the highway that was built by the white government for its citizens for their convenience. Yes we agree it was a two lane. The ANC Government built an additional two lanes and will be charging fees for all four lanes. I propose that they find and build their toll roads like the way they built the Ghost train sorry Gautrain. Dont touch our highway,it belongs to the people and we are paying taxes. This greedy government has put the toll drama on hold because of the elections but we are not fools.

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