JZ is pretty much public enemy number one, Wednesday’s countrywide marches proving that, but perhaps we should save some of our ire for the equally unscrupulous Gupta family.
They’re just better at doing their dodgy deals behind closed doors you see, although those dealing are beginning to have a tangible effect on the lives of everyday South Africans. Atul, Rajesh and Ajay, the three brothers who have built an empire since arriving from India in 1997, have their fingers in many pies. Mail and Guardian with more:
[They] have built on a computer business to amass stakes in uranium, gold and coal mines, a luxury game lodge, an engineering company, a newspaper and their 24-hour television news channel, ANN7.
Along the way they have done business with or employed three of Zuma’s immediate family, and all of this means they have come to exercise some power over just who gets appointed where and what decisions are made:
“They are the chieftains of patronage. They get extraordinary privileges from the president,” said the Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane, in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“Zuma is controlled by the Guptas. Once you have a weak institution like the ANC and a government that is institutionally captured, you only have to win control over a few individuals like Jacob Zuma and you control everything.”
It’s a deeply troubling relationship between the Gupta family and the president’s family,” said Nic Borain, an adviser to BNP Paribas Securities South Africa. “There are a multitude of documented relationships and there is a very widespread acceptance and assumption that this goes beyond undue influence. This goes close to capture of political authority by a group of foreign businessmen.”
So they have Zuma under their thumb, glad we have cleared that up. Now of course what really brought this relationship to the fore was Guptagate back in 2013, when they flew 217 people in a chartered jetliner to the Waterkloof air-force base in Pretoria for their niece’s wedding. The problem here was the blue light brigade that ferried them through traffic, and of course the tiny aside that Waterkloof is supposed to be a top-security site and commercial use is prohibited.
More of the repercussions of the Guptas flexing their muscle from the Sunday Times:
“We are feeling the real effects of the state becoming captive to networks of patronage,” Judith February, an analyst at the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies, said. “The Guptas seem to wield an enormous amount of influence over ministers. There’s a pattern here.”
At an anti-government protest in Johannesburg in October, former labor union boss and anti-corruption campaigner Zwelinzima Vavi told thousands of workers and unemployed people that South Africa now only serves big business and the ruling elite. The Guptas were one of his targets.
“The Guptas are continuously buying helicopter after helicopter” Vavi said. They once landed a helicopter in a park near their house, where children ride bikes around a lake and families barbecue on weekends, the Star newspaper said in 2010. “They want special permission to land on their homes. We’re up to here with our corruption,” he said.
Asked later by a reporter why he’d picked on the Guptas, Vavi said: “They’re the shadow government. They’re a sign of what’s wrong with our country.”
Relax, all this doesn’t mean Zuma should get a free pass. Quite the contrary actually, because we are now all beginning to pay the price for JZ inviting these shady characters into his inner sanctum and allowing them the chance to pull some strings.
This is not JUST about Jacob Zuma, it’s ALSO about the Guptas.
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