The Guptas may have willed more powers than the former president Jacob Zuma, as the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture intensifies, more politicians are opening up about their connection to the Guptas.
The Gupta family, which includes brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh “Tony”, have been at the centre of the state capture controversy emanating from their dubious business dealings with various politicians and state owned enterprises during former president Jacob Zuma’s catastrophic tenure.
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is the latest Cabinet member to come clean on meetings with the Guptas, we have compiled a list of politicians who admitted to have met with the family.
Politicians who have admitted to meeting with the Guptas have faced fierce criticism from both opposition parties and the general public alike.
In the wake of the Guptas’ destructive influence on political executives, various state-endorsed commissions have now been designated the daunting task of sifting through the wreckage for clues.
The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs is attempting to uncover the facts of the Gupta family’s naturalisation process – which can be viewed as the foundation for corruption on which the Indian nationals’ presence in South Africa was built upon.
The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, overseen by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, has uncovered some harsh truths relating to the Gupta-era, which has since claimed the political lives of at least one high-ranking government official.
Minister in the Presidency Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is the most recent politician to admit meeting with the Gupta family. As reported by IOL, Dlamini-Zuma admitted to meeting the Guptas while Minister of Foreign Affairs. She divulged this information in response to a parliamentary question tabled by Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Shahid Esau, saying:
“I attended official meetings with Ajay Gupta present when I was Minister of Foreign Affairs and he was a board member at Brand South Africa. I was also invited and accepted an invitation to attend Diwali celebrations at the Gupta family home.
I have never been influenced, nor have I influenced an employee to take administrative action on behalf of the [Guptas].”
Embattled Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has been implicated in various schemes involving the Guptas, including their naturalisation process. During his testimony before the committee, Gigaba recounted how he had celebrated Diwali with the Guptas. He also reminisced about attending the infamous Gupta wedding. Gigaba even told of how he had visited Saxonwold before he became the minister of home affairs, saying:
“I have attended several functions where the Gupta family members were present in the presence of other public representatives and many other people, including at their home.
I had no relationship with the Gupta family beyond that of acquaintances.”
Nhlanhla Nene fell victim to his doubletalk regarding his meetings with the Gupta family – as a result, he forfeited his position as Minister of Finance, handing in his resignation to President Cyril Ramaphosa shortly after his testimony before the Zondo commission. While Nene was seen as the ‘good guy’, his subsequent fall from grace demonstrates the damning stain of Gupta association.
In a letter of apology addressed to the people of South Africa, Nene said:
“I was wrong for meeting the Guptas at their residence, and not at my office or at least in a public place. As soon as I became aware of the controversy swirling around the family’s dealings, I should have called a meeting along with the Treasury.
I am human too, and I make mistakes. It’s reasonable for the public to expect [politicians] to own up fully and timeously to the mistakes, they make when carrying out public duties. I therefore failed to live up to those ideals. I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness.”
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has admitted to meeting with the infamous Gupta family on ‘very few occasions’. Davies revealed the controversial connection in reply to a parliamentary question tabled Democratic Alliance (DA) member, Werner Horn, saying:
“I knew Duduzane [Zuma] since he was a child in Maputo and agreed to a meeting at my residence in Cape Town. Zuma arrived with Ajay Gupta and this was the first time that I met a member of that family. On very few occasions, I accepted a personal dinner invitation with my wife at which the mother of the Gupta brothers was also present.”
Mcebisi Jonas and Vytjie Mentor
Mcebisi Jonas and Vytjie Mentor are lumped together because they are both regarded as chief whistle-blowers in the Gupta scandal. Jonas alleged that the Guptas offered him R600 million to take the position of finance minister in 2015, saying:
“Mr. Gupta opened the conversation by stating that ‘we know you’. He pointed at Mr Duduzane Zuma and said that they had made him a billionaire and that he had bought a house in Dubai. He said that they worked closely with a number of people, including Lynne Brown and Brian Molefe, and, as a result, they were protected.
He [the Gupta brother] said that at the moment ‘we’ (which I understood to be the Gupta family) earn about R6-billion from the fiscus through various entities including Eskom, Transnet and other government departments. He said they wanted to increase this amount to R8-billion and that they thought that I could be helpful in this regard.”
Mentor revealed explosive evidence before the Zondo commission, implicating the former president’s son, Duduzane, in sordid business affairs with the Gupta family. She retold the events of a state-visit to China, which was ‘orchestrated’ by the Guptas, saying she had been contacted by one of the brothers while in her hotel room:
“The person on the telephone identified himself as a Gupta. He may have said his name‚ what stuck to my mind was the surname.
He told me that he was sent by Zuma to fetch me to drive me to meet Zuma at the Chinese state guesthouse where he was put up and he told me the president would like to meet me before he [would] head to the state banquet.
He (the Gupta brother) became a little bit aggressive in tone and at one point he said he was going to call the president and tell the president I am refusing to meet with him.
I was not going to go to president Zuma‚ who had then a reputation with women. I cannot go and hand myself to a man who has a reputation with women on a silver platter.”
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan recently admitted to meeting with the Guptas. Gordhan said he met the brothers once while on official duty. He did, however, state that he had met members of the Gupta family in passing while attending government events, business meetings and even a cricket match.
As was the case with Nene, Gordhan, who is known for his anti-corruption stance, has come under fire for his, albeit limited, involvement with the Gupta clan.
Politicians on the fence
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s statements on the Guptas are confusing. Although he has ‘denied’ meeting the brothers, he added:
“I was invited by this family in my capacity as the minister of police to attend a Diwali function, which was either in 2009 or 2010.”
It is, at this stage, unclear as to whether Mthethwa accepted the invitation.
Transport Minister Blade Nzimande has admitted to meeting “close associates of the Gupta family during the SABC/TNA morning breakfast shows where I was a guest on the shows”.
Politically affiliated state owned enterprise bosses, including Brian Molefe and Dudu Myeni, are also accused of visiting the ‘Saxonwold Shabeen’ – the mocking term given to the Gupta’s compound.
Additional reporting from TheSouthAfrican.