Gupta Watch

How did the Guptas get painted black?

Atul Gupta
Atu Gupta.jpg

A look at who runs the Gupta family’s affairs reveals a lot of pale males. If they champions were for the economic emancipation of blacks, they don’t seem to show it in the way they run their businesses.

In the ensuing propaganda war that has spilled out between President Jacob Zuma and the Guptas, and those that criticise him, is the narrative that the people opposing the “Zuptas” are racist white monopoly capitalists, or their stooges.

But just how did the Guptas paint themselves black?

They are a family that began to establish themselves in this country as far back as 1993, barely a year before the democratic dispensation began. A young Atul was sent by his father, Shiv Kumar, to undertake a new beginning, according to the account of Pieter-Louis Myburgh in his book The Republic of Gupta: A Story of State Capture.

They are not black; not African black; African-American black; and not British black. They are Indian, and have only become naturalised South Africans as recently as 2015. So, they have suffered exactly zero of the injustices real black South Africans experienced and can’t claim to be historically disadvantaged.

This made the origin and intents of the new Mining Charter suspicious to the point of being comical when it was revealed that the definition of a black person (for the purposes of defining BEE) included: “Black person – a generic term which means Africans, Coloureds and Indians – who became citizens of the Republic of South Africa (ii) on or after April 27, 1994 and who would have been entitled to acquire citizenship by naturalisation prior to that date.”

Black run business?

Now Mr Zwane, are you sure the last part wasn’t drafted in Saxonwold?

If the Guptas were so for the economic emancipation of blacks, they sure as heck don’t seem to show it in the way they run their businesses.

We had the great pleasure of meeting the Oakbay Investments executive team when they decided to present certain features of the group’s results at the JSE last year.

Besides being a family affair and employing some Indians, there are a quite a few white Afrikaans males involved in the upper management of their businesses.

Looking a little bit closer and we find the following:

Oakbay Investments

Holding company: Current acting CEO Ronica Ragavan (Indian female), prior to that Nazeem Howa (Indian male).

Oakbay Resources and Energy – the JSE-listed public company (per website):

  • Board: Terence Rensen (chairman, white male); Jacques Roux (CEO, white male); Trevor Scott (financial director and CFO, white male); Dudu Nyamane (non-executive director, black female); Mark Pamensky (independent non-executive director, white male); Nazeem Howa (non-executive director, Indian male).
  • Management: Paul Richardson (white male), Leon du Preez (white male), Izak Marais (white male), Joseph Mtshali (black male), Henning Viljoen (white male).

Professional services:

  • PR: As we are now all aware, Bell Pottinger was hired to manage the Guptas, Oakbay and the ANC’s professional image, paid for by the Guptas. The firm is British, so the chances were going to be slim that a black South African would be involved. Those directly involved on the “Oakbay” account included: Nick Lambert (white British male), Victoria Geoghegan (white British female), plus a further two white British males; and
  • Family lawyer: Gert van der Merwe, from Van der Merwe Attorneys Inc. (We couldn’t tell how many black people work here because the firm does not seem to have a webpage.)

I also had the opportunity to interact with one of the Guptas up close, on my beat as a mining reporter. This included hosting Varun Gupta, Atul Gupta’s nephew, when he came to be interviewed at Moneyweb’s offices in June 2015 in his capacity as chief operating officer of Oakbay Resources and Energy (the listed vehicle), and again when we toured the Shiva Uranium and gold mine a few months later. I never saw any blacks in Varun’s personal security detail, or the drivers that ferried us around the mine, or even in the contingent of “hostess” ladies that looked after us at the mine? No, they were all white. 

I also once asked Nazeem Howa if he had any equity in the Oakbay businesses, and he told me the family owns the companies outright with no staff afforded a stake in them.

So, it’s a little bit hard to take, sitting where I am, to see how the Guptas are advancing the interests of black South Africans.

They don’t hire them in senior executive roles, they don’t empower them if they are staff, and in most cases, they don’t even want them in their personal proximity – as we learnt from the Gupta wedding at Sun City.

The only ones that seem to be prominent in their universe – outside of Duduzane Zuma – are the ones in government, or the ones doing their bidding.

                                                                                                                        by Warren Thompson

(This is a slightly edited version of an article originally published by Moneyweb. To read the original article, click here.)



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