The South African government has announced that the UAE government has arrested Rajesh Gupta and Atul Gupta on charges of corruption leveled against them and committed when Jacob Zuma was president.
The Guptas have been accused of “state capture,” which means using corrupt means to influence a government’s decision-making to advance their own interests.
During the reign of Jacob Zuma, the Guptas influenced decision-making in the South African Ministry of Finance, ministries of natural resources and public enterprises, and in ministries responsible for tax collection and communications.
Also read: Gupta Brothers, accused of corruption during Jacob Zuma presidency, arrested
They also influenced the decisions of state broadcaster SABC, South African Airways, state rail freight company Transnet and South African energy company Eksom.
Their proximity to Jacob Zuma was so great that the South African opposition parties called them ‘Zupta’.
Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma, third wife Bongi Ngema and one of his daughters were also employed by the Guptas, with Duduzane being appointed director of Sahara Computers.
The Guptas took advantage of their ties to Zuma, as South African government departments and state-owned companies awarded the Guptas large contracts during his presidency.
South African government officials even said they had received direct orders from the Guptas to make decisions that would serve their own interests.
When did trouble start to brew for the Guptas?
The Guptas came to South Africa from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh in 1993 and saw enormous economic potential after the end of apartheid. However, shortly after they set up shop, they used their non-whiteness to set up a system similar to the apartheid system – the only difference being that black elites were part of this who felt it was their time to to get rich.
There were several allegations of corruption against the Guptas, but public outcry came when it was revealed that the Guptas were trying to forcefully arm ministerial appointments.
In 2016, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said he had the chance to become South Africa’s finance minister.
While the Gupta brothers denied the claim, a similar allegation was leveled against them in 2010 when African National Congress (ANC) legislator Vytjie Mentor alleged that she had been offered the position of minister of public enterprises at a meeting in Gupta’s Sahara Desert. Estate in Johannesburg’s affluent Saxonwold suburb.
However, they also became embroiled in controversy when an Airbus A330, carrying guests attending the wedding of Vega Gupta – daughter of one of the brothers – landed at the military airbase near Pretoria in 2013.
The Waterkloof Air Base is reserved for visiting heads of state and dignitaries, but using the airbase to transport guests of the Guptas showed that they had a huge influence on South Africa’s political establishment.
The Guptas apologized, but the public was amazed at the abuse of power.
How much did the Guptas steal from South Africa and how?
Reports from South African and international media suggest that the Guptas have stolen more than $7 billion from South Africa through their businesses.
They bought mines, invested in the development of the IT infrastructure of several large South African companies and ministries, and in technology and engineering. However, when allegations of misconduct later came to light, Guptas was found to be cutting back when it came to paying health benefits and pensions (though they were once seen handing out handfuls of cash to miners Optimum Coal Mine in Gauteng).
They were also made possible by Zuma, who fired the chiefs of all three intelligence agencies and replaced them with loyalists in 2010, when the first corruption charges emerged.
The lavish 2013 wedding ceremony at the Sun City resort in South Africa was paid for by the looting of a government-funded dairy farm intended to empower poor black farmers. The money went through the UAE.
The Guptas also gave faulty computers to Eksom, hired models instead of TV journalists at ANN7 News (launched by the brothers to earn government revenue), and were also known for using London-based PR firm Bell Pottinger to run a series of hashtags and fake news. news websites that would portray the Guptas as victims of white monopoly and economic apartheid.
In 2010, the Industrial Development Corporation loaned the Guptas $34 million for so-called investments in a South African uranium mine. They also landed a $4.4 billion deal in South African rail and port company Transnet, where Guptas used the contract to secure millions in kickbacks or “commissions.” In addition, Duduzane, Zuma’s son, presented their companies as black property for electoral gains.
The Guptas are likely to hire law firms to avoid extradition to the UAE, but they are leaving behind a poor, struggling South Africa where miners who worked in their mines are starving, unable to feed their families and themselves.
(with input from Vanity Fair, the BBC and The Daily Maverick)
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