Crisis in South Africa: How Are The Guptas Linked to Jacob Zuma?

Who are the Guptas and how did they come to be involved in the Zuma affair?

Published
World
3 min read
Police close off roads around the home of the Gupta family, friends of President Jacob Zuma, in Johannesburg on 14 February.
i

Jacob Zuma resigned as President of South Africa on Wednesday, heeding orders by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to bring an end to his nine scandal-plagued years in power.

His resignation came just hours after police raided the luxury home of the Gupta family – close allies of the president – who have been at the centre of corruption allegations against Zuma. Both Zuma and the Guptas have always denied wrongdoing.

The family from India seem heavily invested in Zuma’s presidency. So who are they?

The Gupta Family of Saharanpur

The prominent members of the family are four brothers Ajay, Atul, Rajesh and “Tony” Gupta who migrated from Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district in the year 1993, shortly before apartheid rule fell apart, making Nelson Mandela the country’s first democratically elected leader.

According to Times Live, a South African newspaper, Shiv Kumar Gupta sent Atul to South Africa believing that “Africa would become the America of the world” in the opportunities it has to provide.

In 1994, Atul the opened Correct Marketing, an import and distribution business selling computers and components, Times Live reported.

By 1997, the turnover of Correct Marketing amounted to Rs 97 million. The same year, the company’s name was changed to Sahara Computers and Sahara Systems (Pty) Ltd named after their hometown Saharanpur.

With South Africa opening up to foreign investments, the business empire got involved in computers, mining, engineering, media, as well as passenger airline Jet Airways.

The Sahara Estate in Johannesburg's affluent Saxonwold suburb comprises at least four mansions and a BCC report has roughly valued their assets at about 52m rand ($3.4m; £2.3m).

First Meeting With Zuma

The first meeting between the Guptas and the then-Vice President Jacob Zuma took place in 2003 at Sahara Estate in Johannesburg. That marked the beginning of a cosy relationship between the two, which soon became a source of discontent in the African National Congress (ANC), as well as in the general public.

Shortly after Zuma’s election to the presidency, one of Zuma's sons, Duduzane Zuma, became a director in a number of Gupta-owned firms and one of his daughters, Duduzile Zuma, was made a director of the Gupta-owned Sahara computers. Zuma’s third wife, Bongi Ngema, was also employed by the Guptas.

Their ties with Zuma run so deep that in 2013, the family landed into controversy after a plane carrying guests for a wedding at Sun City landed at the Waterkloof Air Base — a military air base that is meant to be used for receiving heads of state.

Allegations of Meddling in Politics

In 2016, a series of allegations of the Guptas' influence over appointments to the South African Cabinet came to the fore.

The Public Protector, South Africa's main anti-corruption watchdog, published a report alleging that the Guptas had tried to influence the appointment of cabinet ministers and were unlawfully awarded state tenders.

The report centre around the then-deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas that Zuma's son Duduzane invited him to the Gupta family home where he was offered the job of finance minister and a bribe of 600 million rand.

The same year former African National Congress (ANC) MP Vytjie Mentor alleged that the Guptas offered her a ministerial post in exchange for a business deal in the Guptas Saxonworld residence, further claiming that Zuma was around when the offer was made.

The Guptas, however, denied all those allegations.

In 2017, a series of email were leaked showing the extent of the Gupta family’s control over South African politics.

The Situation Now

Three Gupta associates‚ including the nephew of the Gupta brothers, Varun Gupta, are to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Thursday, 15 February, on charges of money laundering‚ corruption and theft of state money, Times Live reported.

Ashu Chawla and Ronica Ragovan‚ and nephew Varun Gupta, were among the five people arrested in raids on the Gupta family residences at Saxonwold compound, Bedfordview and Houghton, and the Sahara Computer head office in Midrand‚ Johannesburg.

The lawyer representing the Guptas told Reuters, “The media has got it wrong. None of the Gupta brothers have been arrested. I can't tell you who has been arrested.

A report in Hindustan Times said that the family was planning to shift their base to Dubai.

Liked this story? We'll send you more. Subscribe to The Quint's newsletter and get selected stories delivered to your inbox every day. Click to get started.

The Quint is available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, click to join.

Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!