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How The Guptas’ Brand Turned Toxic In South Africa


The reputations of major international firms Bell Pottinger and KPMG have been badly damaged by their work relating to the controversial Gupta family in South Africa. BBC Africa Business Report editor Matthew Davies looks at whether the family’s business can survive.

The embattled Gupta family, who own a range of businesses in South Africa, have had all their accounts with a number of banks closed supposedly because of alleged dubious business dealings.

And without banks they cannot pay their staff, which they have put at nearly 8,000.

But how did we get here?

When the Gupta brothers, close friends of President Jacob Zuma, arrived in South Africa as ordinary immigrants from India in the 1990s, they established a computer business Sahara, later going on to buy up stakes in mining and engineering companies, a luxury game lodge, a newspaper and a 24-hour news TV station.

But those very lucrative businesses are now at the heart of their fall from grace in what has been termed “state capture” here – allegations that the family, through a slew of corrupt deals, have used their influence to access millions of dollars worth of government contracts.

The three brothers, Atul, Rajesh and Ajay have always strenuously denied the allegations.

South Africa’s four big banks, ABSA, FNB, Standard and Nedbank told the Guptas in March 2016 that they would no longer provide banking facilities to the Gupta-owned Oakbay company and its subsidiaries.

Some have said the scandal points to a bigger problem for South Africa and its governing African National Congress (ANC).

Questions about wealth

South Africa Communist Party head Blade Nzimande pointed to “parasitic patronage networks” in the government. He added that it takes two to tango:

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“We can’t only blame the Guptas. We must also blame their collaborators inside our movement and government as well‚ and unless we deal with that‚ we are on a slippery slope.”

The principal connection between the brothers and Mr Zuma came through the president’s son, Duduzane.

He has worked for the Guptas for 13 years, starting out as a trainee at Sahara Computers.

He recently told the BBC the reason the Guptas chose to go into business with him was that he was a “likeable guy

Corporate documents show that he and the Guptas have served together on at least 11 company boards.

One of President Zuma’s wives worked for a Gupta-controlled mining company and his daughter was a director at Sahara Computers.

The family is worth billions of South African rand, and based on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange figures for 2016, Atul Gupta is South Africa’s 7th richest person with a net worth of around $770m (£600m).

In recent years, questions have been asked about how one family came to amass such wealth in such a relatively short period of time and the negative attention surrounding the Gupta brand began to make those doing business with them jittery.

The Zumas and the Guptas – ‘the Zuptas’

• Bongi Ngema-Zuma, one of the president’s wives, used to work for the Gupta-controlled JIC Mining Services as a communications officer

• Duduzile Zuma, his daughter, was a director at Sahara Computers

• Duduzane Zuma, a son, was a director of some Gupta-owned companies but stepped down in 2016 following public pressure

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