‘Wash first, blacks’

Ugly race rows at Gupta wedding

White bodyguards hired by the Gupta family to protect their wedding guests blocked black employees from entering hotel rooms – unless they washed themselves first.

And Sun City staff members claim that waiters trying to deliver trays to guests’ rooms were told the bodyguards would supply them with toothpaste, toothbrushes and towels to clean themselves if they wanted to proceed.

But the well-connected family last night distanced themselves from these claims, saying reports of racism were “definitely untrue”.

Shocking details of racial abuse have emerged in the wake of this week’s multimillion-rand wedding hosted by President Jacob Zuma’s friends at Sun City.

City Press visited the entertainment complex yesterday and separately interviewed four hotel workers and union bosses representing the hotel’s staff.

Last night, Atul Gupta, on behalf of the family, said they were “flabbergasted” by the publicity around the wedding.

City Press can further reveal that:

» A masseuse was allegedly sexually attacked by a male wedding guest in his Cascades hotel room. The Guptas confirmed the incident;

» The Indian politicians who attended the wedding were not high-profile federal ministers, but local politicians from the Uttar Pradesh province.

“It is like the Indian Congress Party allowing a DA MEC to land on an Indian military base,” said a Gauteng ANC leader;

» According to sources, the newlyweds were on Friday afternoon pulled off their plane by police and extensively questioned;

» Government believes that suspended chief of state protocol Bruce Koloane was handling the logistics of the Gupta wedding “as his personal project”; and

» An email Koloane allegedly sent to a colleague granting clearance for the Jet Airways Airbus A330-200 to land at Air Force Base Waterkloof is a central piece of evidence against him.

A police source also told City Press that more than 20 people will be arrested this week for security work done for the Guptas during the wedding.

There was unhappiness within the Gupta family about how departing wedding guests – among them newlyweds Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia – were treated by South African officials as they left the country.

A source close to the family told City Press the flight containing wedding guests was delayed at OR Tambo International Airport for four hours. The pilot was questioned at his Rosebank hotel, the source said, which was what led to the extensive delay.

The source described these actions as a show of force by South African authorities.

But Brigadier Phuti Setati, spokesperson of the national police commissioner, said he was not aware that the couple or any guests had been questioned.

Koki Khojane, a Cosatu shop steward who works at Sun City, said a number of the union federation’s members had approached him to complain about racial discrimination at the hands of wedding guests.

“On Tuesday, the Gupta security told waiters who were delivering drinks to the guests’ rooms that they were not allowed in the rooms,” Khojane said.

“Security said that they would bring the waiters towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

“This blatantly means that black people smell and the Gupta guests would not be served by smelly black people,” he said.

“One woman who had been working for Sun City for 20 years said this is the worst level of racism she had ever seen.”

Lydia Mohlakane, a shop steward for the catering workers’ union Saccawu, who handles guest relations for the Cascades, made the booking for the man who allegedly attacked a masseuse on Tuesday.

Mohlakane said the man, who was staying in a room in the Cascades, specifically asked for a masseuse (meaning a woman).

“He requested her for 30 minutes between 4pm and 4.30pm,” Mohlakane said.

“At about 4.45pm, I went to the lobby and found that there was some commotion.

“I heard from one of the masseurs (a man) that the lady had been harassed during the massage.”

Another of the spa’s masseuses, who asked not to be named because she feared being victimised, said the woman who was allegedly attacked was “traumatised”.

“She still is, but she doesn’t want to talk about it,” she said.

“She said to me that, after a few minutes of being inside the room, the man started touching her.

“It’s policy that as soon as we feel uncomfortable in any room we should just leave and that’s what she did, and reported the matter.”

The masseuse, too, had a run-in with one of the wedding guests – although it was racial rather than sexual in nature, she said.

“I was also called in on Tuesday to go give a massage but the man looked at me and told me to leave because he wanted to be massaged by a white lady,” she said.

“So I left and informed my superior. I don’t know if a white lady was organised.”

Cosatu’s provincial secretary in North West, Solly Phetoe, said Sun International had undermined South Africa’s Constitution and workers’ rights by allowing the Gupta family to dictate to the company.

“Sun International is defending the undefendable. If I requested them to allow me to bring my own servants, they would never allow that,” he said.

“They should have told the Guptas that, if they don’t want to make use of the black staff, they must take their money and go.”

Richard Hawkins, Sun City’s managing executive, said if any guest asked to bring their own “help”, they would engage with management and decide whether this was in order.

“After discussion, guests are allowed to bring their own people, who are skilled in particular areas, for example a golf instructor or chef, but prior arrangements would have to be made with management first,” said Hawkins. He said he would not divulge any information about guests on Sun City’s grounds.

“I would never divulge anything done by any guest here to any third party. I’m not confirming or denying, either, whether a case of sexual assault has been opened. I’m looking out for the best interests of our employees,” he said.

City Press found unhappy staff in several sections of Sun City.

A chef at The Palace, who asked to remain anonymous, said working with chefs brought in specifically by the Gupta family had been a nightmare.

“On Monday when I walked into the kitchen, I saw that the walkway had been blocked by a stove, as if we were not supposed to associate with the chefs brought in for the Gupta wedding,” the chef said.

“I asked why we were separated as chefs. I didn’t get a response.”

The horrified chef said she saw a chef hired by the Guptas washing his face in one of the kitchen sinks.

“The potatoes would be in a pot on the floor and there they were, coughing all over them and washing their faces in the sink. This was so unhygienic.

“I doubt they were even professionals, because we know that you clean as you go. One of the chefs went to management to report all this, but management did nothing about it – instead we were left with a huge mess.”

It has also emerged that it wasn’t only the Jet Airways Airbus that landed at Waterkloof: the Gupta family also landed their private Cessna Citation Sovereign business jet there on Tuesday.

A photo of the jet with the name of the Guptas’ computer company, Sahara, clearly painted on the tail in blue was taken at Air Force Base Waterkloof on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Rapport

The Gupta Empire

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