Inside story: How Gupta spies have put me under pressure – Peter Bruce

#GuptaLeaks. More of Zapiro’s magic available on his website www.zapiro.com

EDINBURGH — Peter Bruce is a leading South African journalist. A highly respected former editor, he continues to deliver incisive analysis about the state of politics and the economy. A smear campaign in which Bruce has been falsely painted as leading a secret life makes it clear that he has touched raw nerves within the Gupta empire. Revelations that he has been spied on are deeply sinister – and raise questions about his safety. Other Gupta critics have also allegedly been under surveillance. This week, Bruce has fought back at the Gupta family, warning Atul Gupta that he is coming to get him, one way or the other. If Peter Bruce doesn’t win through legal channels, he is determined to use the power of the pen to fight the forces of evil directed by the Gupta family in a state capture campaign that is damaging the economy and jeopardising social stability. – Jackie Cameron

Read more: Paul O’Sullivan: Gupta surveillance saga another front in war for SA’s soul

Staff writer

Peter Bruce, a leading South African journalist, has declared war on the powerful family controlling President Jacob Zuma and his cronies in a state capture strategy.

He is considering legal action against the Gupta family and is exploring instituting criminal charges against key individuals after it emerged that he had been spied on and falsely depicted as being unfaithful to his wife.

Bruce has also promised to use the power of the pen to put Atul Gupta under pressure for the foreseeable future.

The former editor of Business Day and Financial Mail recently featured on a Gupta-funded website aimed at smearing critics of President Jacob Zuma and pushing the white monopoly capital myth.

The article, headlined “Cheater Peter”, was aimed at hurting Bruce and his family by depicting the commentator as a philanderer. Photographs accompanying the piece made it clear that Bruce had been clandestinely followed and photographed.

The website put the photographs together in a montage to develop a narrative that Bruce was leading a secret life.

In his regular BusinessLive column this week, Bruce has revealed how the Gupta family has put him under pressure and has deliberately tried to make him crack. Bruce also clarifies what he was doing when he was photographed.

He wasn’t having an affair – he was commissioning bespoke dog collars, says Bruce of why he met a woman who was not his wife. The hug he gave the woman after an hour-long meeting was innocent, he explains.

Bruce says he was secretly followed after writing about “How to buy a coal mine for next to nothing”. That column detailed how the Gupta family had worked with Eskom managers to buy Optimum coal mine using the mine’s rehabilitation fund.

“I was right. That fund now rests illegally in the Bank of Baroda,” he reflects.

A second column he believes played a role in putting the Gupta spy machinery into action was headlined, “What Zuma still has to break to win”. “The answer was — the Treasury and the Reserve Bank.”

After that column, President Jacob Zuma “fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister, tried to replace him with a useful Gupta idiot, Des van Rooyen, and been forced to retreat and beg Pravin Gordhan to return”.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, Deputy Minister Sifiso Buthelezi and SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane.

“Now he has another useful Gupta idiot, Malusi Gigaba, at the Treasury, so that job is done. And if you thought Gigaba was going to be a danger to the Treasury, his deputy, Sfiso Buthelezi, is of so low an intellect, he will do even more damage,” says Bruce.

I tell you this,” writes Bruce, “because it turns out that for about a week in September 2016, while the Guptas were still cocky (that is, before the e-mails about them leaked), they had me followed and secretly photographed: my wife and I leaving the house for our early morning walk with our dogs, me having coffee with friends in Parkview, me visiting the offices of psychologists as I looked for help for one of my family, me visiting a business to order custom-made collars for the dogs.

“When the owner walked me back to my car and gave me a goodbye hug, they photographed that too.

“I was unaware of all of this, but a first clue of Gupta involvement emerged in January, when Andile Mngxitama, a luckless land reformer who has found some succour under the Gupta wing, tweeted to me that ‘you going to get a heart attack Peter; better prepare yourself’,” says Bruce of the clue that the Guptas had shown Mngxitama the surveillance.

“Mngxitama is at least real and consistent. But a month later, one of the Gupta army of tweet ‘bots’ created by the UK public relations firm hired to burnish the Gupta image, Bell Pottinger, was entirely more threatening: ‘I’ve heard you are mentally sick and you see psychiatric ever week. Pls confirm,’ tweeted @France4u1.

“When I relayed this to Atul Gupta, asking if he approved, the bot responded: “And what about you cheating on your wife? Is that also a country issue? Will expose you in full! Watch the space.”

Peter Bruce on the ‘price of writing’ about Atul Gupta

Bruce describes how his “phone fairly exploded as my ‘exposure in full’, my ‘heart attack’, came to pass.

“A site called wmcleaks.com had invented a story about me cheating on my wife with the dog-collar lady. Accompanied by pictures of the surveillance, our address and ID numbers, my children’s identities, the dog-collar lady’s address and phone number.

Atul Gupta

“I have been a journalist for 45 years and I have never knowingly once invaded anyone’s privacy and I never would, not even a Gupta privacy,” continues Bruce.

“But what was done to me was a criminal act and I will obviously seek legal advice on how, or even if, to proceed. I understand that there are limits. One of the people who created the story about me and placed it on the new wmcleaks.com site was a former Gupta employee, reportedly a relative, now working safely in India.”

Although the legal possibilities are limited, Bruce notes that he “can still write what I like”.

“As the Gupta e-mail leaks have shown, nothing happens without the brothers agreeing to it. I have no doubt they approved and paid for my surveillance and that they have paid for the construction of the wmcleaks website and continue to pay for the promotion of the story on Google.”

For Bruce, there’s “no doubt that the Guptas run a private intelligence network in SA, probably with assistance from the state’s own intelligence agencies. They track their critics and leading bankers”.

“The fact that their investigators are incompetent is neither here nor there.”

Bruce raises the issue of whether he should be scared, as “surveillance means they can get close”.

“Sorry your little smear failed, Atul. I will try and make it up to you. This column has a maximum of two-and-a-half years more to run. I will do my best to give you a mention in it every week,” adds Peter Bruce.