The family caught in political row:

STORM: A march calling for
Zuma to quit; (below) The New
Age newspaper; and (bottom)
Jacob Zuma with his three
wives, one of whom was
employed by the Guptas
STORM: A march calling for Zuma to quit; (below) The New Age newspaper; and (bottom) Jacob Zuma with his three wives, one of whom was employed by the Guptas

A POLITICALLY-connected business dynasty that moved to South Africa from India, the Gupta family finds itself at the centre of many of the scandals that have dogged president Ja­cob Zuma’s administration.  

The family is headed by Ajay, Atul and Rajesh (“Tony”) Gupta, three brothers from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.  

Led by Atul, they arrived in South Africa in 1993 as white-minority apartheid rule crum­bled, a year before Nelson Mandela won the country’s first democratic elections.  

As the country opened up to foreign investment, the Gup­tas – previously small-scale businessmen in India – built a sprawling empire involved in computers, mining, media, technology and engineering.  

The New Age, an ardently pro-Zuma newspaper, was launched in 2010, and the 24-hour news channel ANN7 took to the airwaves in 2013 with a similar editorial slant.  

They had developed close links with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) par­ty focusing particularly on Zu­ma, well before he became president in 2009.  

Zuma’s son Duduzane was a director of the Gupta-owned Sahara Computers, named af­ter their hometown of Saha­ranpur, and has been involved with several of the family’s other companies.  

Zuma’s third wife Bongi Ngema and one of his daughters have also been in the employ of the Guptas.  

Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jo­nas claimed in March 2015 that the Guptas had offered him the post of finance minister, in return for obeying the family’s instructions – for which he would allegedly be paid 600 mil­lion rand ($50 million).  

Backbench ANC lawmaker David van Rooy­en was then revealed to have visited the Gup­tas’ home the night before his brief appoint­ment as finance minister on December 9, 2015. Both the Guptas and Zuma, who has described the brothers as friends, deny any wrongdoing.  

Perhaps one of the most colourful Gupta-linked incidents related to a family wedding in 2013. Public anger erupted after it was re­vealed that a jet carrying 217 foreign guests to a Gupta wedding landed at Waterkloof Air Force base, outside Pretoria.  

The airport is a military facility normally used for receiving heads of state. It appeared that Zuma, who was the guest of honour, had tacitly approved the decision, which breached air force and customs and immigration rules.  

There were also allegations that the law was broken when the guests were given a police “blue light” escort.  

The Gupta business empire has been re­peatedly accused of securing deals with South Africa’s giant state-owned companies on wild­ly favourable terms.  

South Africa’s ethics watchdog, the Public Protector, published a damning report in Oc­tober 2016, finding that the state-owned elec­tricity monopoly had awarded a massive coal order to a then-Gupta linked business at well above market prices.  

The report also alleged that former mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane “travelled to Swit­zerland with the Guptas to help them seal the deal” to buy a struggling coal mine.  

The family is mentioned 232 times in the re­port, entitled State of Capture because of the influence that the Guptas are alleged to have exerted on some branches of the state.  

In recent years, major banks have withdrawn their facilities to the Gupta family, compli­cating the payment of salaries to staff and the day-to-day running of a complex, cash-inten­sive business empire.  

India’s Bank of Baroda, thought to be the last major bank to continue its relationship with the Guptas in South Africa, recently an­nounced it would withdraw from the country, effectively ending its association with the con­troversial family.  

They also face the prospect of a judge-led inquiry into their business dealings, as recom­mended by the public protector’s report.  

One of the biggest scandals in South Africa is over a scheme that allegedly siphoned mil­lions of dollars from a black-empowerment agriculture project.