Let's Think

Colonialism, Gupta style: Zuma actually a victim?

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Looking at the history of the Gupta family and studying patterns from leaked emails, reveal a picture of colonialism/imperialism of a special kind.

Maybe he was just naïve, seduced by the temptations of massive personal gains, and then beaten by much better chess players, when the pieces of history were on the board. But, President Jacob Zuma might just be a victim of ‘old hands’ in the games ‘imperialists’ play.

Be it as it may, in the process the people of his ‘rainbow nation’ also became victims.

The recent deluge of information from leaked Gupta electronic communications, released into the public domain about dodgy business practices and manipulation of political leaders and government, create a sense of public powerlessness.

And, the members of the Zuma team – the African National Congress is not without blame for the results – they should have seen it coming and, should have had their defensive systems in place.

Long Gupta history

President Zuma, the ANC and, South Africa fell victim to an empire, the roots  of which stretch back many millenniums. Founded by Sri Gupta, it reached its zenith from approximately 320 to 550 CE, covering much of the Indian subcontinent.

It is claimed that the by the 4th century CE, the Guptas have conquered about 21 kingdoms, both in- and outside India.

The high points of this period are the great cultural developments which took place during the reign of Chandragupta II. All literary sources like Mahabharata and Ramayana were canonised during this period. The Gupta an number of produced scholars made advancements in many academic fields.

Ironically, the board game chess, which Mr Zuma is said to have become fascinated with as prisoner on Robin Island, developed during that period. Another legacy from that period is the iconic work on human sexuality, or erotica if you want, the  Kama Sutra.

The empire gradually declined, due to many factors, like the substantial loss of territory and the growing authority of its own erstwhile feudatories, the invasion by the Ephthalite Huns, and the collapse of trade with the Roman Empire.

The empire finally collapse in the 6th century into numerous regional kingdoms – the Gupta clan continuing to rule the Magadha region.

According to some academics, the name Gupta is derived from Sanskrit goptri, meaning 'protector' or 'governor'.

(Note: There is not total consensus amongst historians about all the details of the Gupta history.)

Gupta ‘governors’ arrive in South Africa

It is now 24 years since the first three brothers, descendants of those ‘governors’ – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh (also known as Tony) Gupta – in 1993 arrived in South Africa, on the eve of the country’s first fully democratic election.

A BBC report reveals that this was a move within a bigger family plan. South Africa was then home to Africa’s largest economy and, according to a family spokesman, the brother’s father dispatched them to the continent he believed “was about to become the new ‘America of the world’ – a land of opportunity.

It is said that when they arrived to set up the family’s first African business, called Sahara Computers (not linked to a company by the same name in India), they were amazed at the lack of red tape compared to India.

Where and with whom the Gupta-brothers started building their political- and top bureaucratic network, is not exactly known. However, we do know that they also tried their luck with President Zuma’s predecessor, Thabo Mbeki’s administration. Mbeki, however, reportedly played a guarded game with the Guptas and they did not get much joy there.

But, clearly, they were studying the South African political chess board intensely and covered themselves carefully.

They met then deputy-president Zuma in 2003 at their, now infamous, Saxonwold estate and relations with members the Zuma family started shortly afterwards.

They employed Zuma's wife Bongi Ngema-Zuma, and is said to have bought a house for her;  Zuma's sons, Duduzane became a director in a number of Gupta owned companies; and a daughter, Duduzile, became a director of Sahara Computers.

 By the time that the leadership battle between Zuma and Mbeki came round, starting in 2005, the Guptas were strong Zuma supporters, and well positioned to benefit from the relationship when Zuma became ANC president in 2007 and, of the country in 2009.

However, the Guptas did not restrict their efforts at establishing political influence to central government. Their scoring a lucrative deal with a dairy farm project in the Free State, with alleged assistance from Premier Ace Magashule, is well known.

Even on time leader of the Democratic Alliance, and premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, admitted she once enjoyed a "delicious" meal at the Guptas' compound and, received a donation for the party.

The influence they acquired first came to public attention when they landed a private airliner at Waterkloof Air Force base in 2013.

However, with the present revelations, coming almost daily from the 100 000 plus leaked ‘Gupta-emails,’ a picture is emerging of the width, depth and extent to which the family as captured the state, its institutions, and its enterprises.

According to one count, beside President Zuma, 10 top leaders has already been implicated.

Huge empire arose

In the process the family has built a huge business/political empire, stretching from the original electronic sector to the media, mining, energy, agriculture, mineral exploration, manufacturing, engineering, aviation, and defence. There was even an attempt to register an own Bank.

It has become an empire that would even have left a Cecil John Rhodes of old envious.

Oakbay Investments – the family’s holding company – in September last year released annual audited results, indicating revenue of R2.62 billion for the financial year ended 29 February 2016.


The ANC had a second opportunity in March, 2016, after failing to deal properly with the Waterkloof incident, to come to grips with the situation, when it purportedly launched an investigation into the matter of ‘state capture.’

However, two month later, in May,2016, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said it would be a “fruitless” exercise for the party to continue to investigate allegations against the Gupta family as they had only received one written submission on the matter.

Now it looks too late in the game for a comeback. All indications are that the party, and its king Zuma is in check mate.

by Piet Coetzer

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