🔒 How world sees SA: Gupta brothers reveal true ANC colours

EDINBURGH — It’s been nearly a year since South Africa finally got shot of its corrupt president Jacob Zuma and waved goodbye to the greedy Gupta brothers. But, the saga is not forgotten. The world spotlight is still on corruption in South Africa, with The New York Times setting out what the rise of the Gupta family reveals about the ruling African National Congress. Its journalists have been scouting around in India and elsewhere to pick up, and understand, the narrative of the state capture scandal. The ANC has a new president but its reputation remains sullied, to the detriment of the nation. Now desperate to distance themselves from the brothers, ANC leaders dismiss the family as a legacy of the Zuma era. “But the story of the Guptas — who landed in the country a year before the end of apartheid in 1994 and left with Mr. Zuma’s fall — is also the story of South Africa under the ANC,” cautions The New York Times. – Jackie Cameron

By Thulasizwe Sithole

Even here in India, the Gupta family’s legacy — so large that it has been elevated to myth — faces collapse, reports The New York Times. A grand new temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva in their father’s honour, is now being investigated for the same kind of self-dealing and fraud the family is accused of mastering in South Africa, it tells its international audience.

“The rise and fall of the Gupta brothers is so improbable that in Saharanpur their story is told like a parable.

“They began by selling shoes in South Africa and swiftly became central figures in the nation’s post-apartheid history, outsiders who broke into the very pinnacle of political power. Seemingly overnight, they joined the ranks of South Africa’s most influential families, playing a leading role in one of the biggest dramas after the end of apartheid: Who is getting rich, and how?”

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Read also: How Gupta and Zuma families will escape justice – analysts

The New York Times points to two key ways that ANC leaders could become fabulously wealthy off a low base after 1994: The early ones succeeded through ties with rich white South Africans; many others turned to the brothers from Saharanpur.

“The Guptas found eager partners at all levels of the ANC, from bureaucrats to a sitting president, Jacob Zuma, according to dozens of interviews by The New York Times, as well as government investigators, international auditors, emails from a Gupta company, financial records and court documents.

“Seizing on a chance encounter with a South African official in India decades ago, the three brothers cultivated ties to the governing party so expertly that it became difficult to draw the line between their business empire and the president’s office.”

The New York Times highlights a critical move by the Guptas early in their strategy to conquer South Africa: Making Duduzane Zuma a business partner enabled them to buy a coal mine through government intervention and set up a media business that the president helped guide himself.

“The president responded in kind, handing them control over strategic cabinet selections and the boards of state-owned enterprises,” points out the publication.

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The Guptas recruited other senior ANC officials by giving them secret cuts of lucrative contracts from the state’s utility and rail companies, government investigators say. “They acted as fixers for multinational companies, like the German software giant SAP, which paid them kickbacks in return for government business, documents show.”

Even in far-flung rural corners of South Africa, the Gupta brothers found ANC officials ready to divert money meant to help the poor, says the media outlet.

The main agent of corruption, underscores The New York Times, was the party itself. “ANC. leaders have siphoned off tens of billions of dollars meant to improve the lives of their most loyal supporters, poor black South Africans.

“They have crippled strong government agencies, like the national tax service, to benefit their own bank accounts. Some of the nation’s new leaders — the ANC officials promising a new chapter for the country now that Mr. Zuma is out of office — have pocketed money intended  for basic services, like schools. ANC politicians have even taken to assassinating fellow party members to cover up corruption, leading some officials to liken the party to a Mafia.”

The publication quotes august historian RW Johnson saying: “The Guptas were so egregious and big-time that they are a story on their own… But the thing that amazes is that this is only 20 years on from an African nationalist revolution, and here are all these guys happily selling their country down the river.”