By Max Du Preez
Wednesday, Jul 12, 2017
|How the Guptas broke South Africa
|The Guptas are Zuma’s family friends and business partners of his son Duduzane. (GCIS)|
If the Gupta family only came to South Africa to steal state money and become fabulously wealthy, we could have written off this tragic chapter in our history as a bad episode we could learn from.
But it is now becoming abundantly clear that they have a devastating impact on our democracy, our freedom, our economy and our political culture. The Guptas’ toxic presence, their subversion of our public discourse and compromising of so many politicians and civil servants have torn our national fabric and will take a long time to undo.
I am one of a group of journalists who has to go to court today to ask for protection from a Gupta surrogate. The last time I felt threatened like this as a journalist was during the nasty late 1980s, when the PW Botha regime tried to neutralise me, literally and figuratively.
The ANC governments since 1994 have never given journalists the impression that they are under siege. And then the Guptas arrived and took over.
Black First Land First (BLF), a small group of vigilantes who are, we learnt recently, funded by the Guptas, last week physically intimidated two senior editors and threatened a number of us by name. It was this same small gang that recently assaulted people assembling near the Guptas’ Saxonwold stronghold. They call white journalists critical of the Guptas’ actions “racists” and the black ones “askaris” and threaten to “deal with us” at home and at our “place of worship”.
The fact that the leaked Gupta emails exposed the Gupta brothers as anti-black racists – one Gupta brother even called a black employee a monkey – makes the BLF campaign even more transparent.
Investigative journalists have established that the unprecedented onslaught of fake news – real fake news – and underhand social media campaigns we’re experiencing at the moment have their roots in Gupta-aligned circles. They are also reported to be financing a website called WMCLeaks that is advertising on Facebook and is used as a base from which to launch mass attacks on Twitter.
The Guptas’ television channel, ANN7, is a malicious and crude propaganda tool with little regard for the facts and is being used to attack Gupta and Zuma critics. But the Gupta toxicity goes a lot deeper than propaganda and the undermining of free speech and decent, open discourse.
Take the case of Mosebenzi Zwane, minister of mineral resources.
We know that as Free State MEC he assisted the Guptas in getting their hands on a multi-million rand dairy farm, and we know that some R30 million of the state’s money meant for the farm were then rerouted to pay for the controversial Gupta wedding at Sun City in 2013.
We have good reason to believe that the Guptas were behind Zwane’s appointment as mineral resources minister, and we know that they then flew him to Europe to help them buy a mine that does business with the state.
We know that they helped him pay his medical costs and our common sense tells us that they had him rewrite the Mining Charter in such a way that the Guptas now qualify as previously disadvantaged black businessmen. (They arrived in South Africa in 1993.)
And yet Zwane is still firmly in his powerful position; as we speak he sits in the front rows at the ANC’s policy conference as if it is the most normal thing in the world.
We know that the Guptas, with the help of President Jacob Zuma’s proxy, his son Duduzane, had offered Mcebisi Jonas R600 million and the job of finance minister if he was prepared to do their bidding.
Nothing has come of that. No investigation, no prosecution.
Several other senior ANC politicians and officials have told us similar stories, and nothing happened.
The Guptas have corrupted and compromised a number of very promising and talented politicians and public figures, like Brian Molefe. In fact, the Guptas can take much of the credit for ripping the oldest liberation movement on the continent apart and turning it into a party at war with itself.
There is substantial evidence suggesting that the Guptas put pressure on Zuma to get rid of their nemesis, Pravin Gordhan, as minister of finance four months ago – an act that seriously hurt the national economy. I believe reports that the Guptas pushed for Molefe to replace him with Malusi Gigaba their second choice. The ANC’s top leaders vetoed Molefe.
We know Gigaba was the minister who had swept his department’s objections aside and granted some of the Guptas early citizenship and that he had appointed several Gupta proxies on some state-owned enterprises – mostly with disastrous consequences and reports of “commission” of amounts in the billions on foreign purchases.
We have ample reason to believe that the Guptas have enough clout at the top to get state bodies like the South African Revenue Service, the Hawks and the national prosecuting authority to do their bidding.
We remember the Gupta pawns’ orchestrated a campaign against the Reserve Bank and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when the new Public Protector recently joined in.
This has become the new normal: a wealthy (they are, now) business family who had massively enriched the president’s son and have a close relationship with the president himself, has as much or more real power than the Cabinet or the top structure of the governing party.
This can only undermine the legitimacy and credibiity of the state in the eyes of the citizens. Worst of all, the Guptas have cynically (and quite successfully) launched a campaign to divert attention from their abuse by positioning “white monopoly capitalism” as the country’s real enemy and taking an axe to the already fragile race relations in the country.
They know that if South Africa collapses into a Venezuela-type mess, they will be unaffected. Dubai the Beloved Country.
The saddest part of this whole saga is that it was made possible by the acquiescence of the president of the country and other senior ANC politicians and civil servants.
And still the show goes on.
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