Yesterday, News 24 reported on BLF  members interrupting a protest by Johannesburg Against Injustices (JAI) at a Shrimad Bhagawat Katha ceremony organised by the Gupta family at the Military Museum in Saxonworld.

BLF said they were there to protect the rights of the Guptas to celebrate their religion, and it would not stand for ‘agents of Rupert’. I fully agree that religious rights of all South Africans should be protected, however I also fully support South Africans’ right to protest. The point of this post, however, is not to argue whether the protests were acceptable or whether I agree with them. The point of this post is to analyse the influence of both the Gupta and the Rupert family and at the end of this post you will see why BLF has no foot to stand on.

Let us start with the Gupta family. The Guptas migrated to South Africa in 1993 to establish Sahara Computers. The close relationship that the Gupta-family has with Jacob Zuma is public knowledge and no South African would dispute it, but has the Gupta-family really reaped the fruits of corruption? Let us first look at the connection between the Guptas and the president. The Guptas are known to be a supporter of Zuma’s power struggle against Thabo Mbeki for leadership of the ANC in 2005. This was a strange decision considering South Africa had an average economic growth of 4,5% under Mbeki and the fact that Mbeki was more qualified than Zuma, attaining an economics degree at the University of London.

Furthermore, the Guptas employed many close relatives of Jacob Zuma. They are known to have employed Zuma’s wife, Bongi Ngema-Zuma and his children Duduzane Zuma (Director in a number of Gupta-owned firms) and Duduzile Zuma (Director of Sahara Computers). Duduzile Zuma was made director shortly after Jacob Zuma’s election to the presidency in 2008 (fishy much?).

The undue influence that the Gupta-family has was clearly exposed to the public when they illegally landed guests on Waterkloof air base in April 2013 to attend a family-wedding. The landing was cleared by Bruce Koloane (former chief of state protocol at the Department of International Relations) and he was demoted after an investigation found that he used Zuma’s name to illegally authorise the landing. This does not make sense, what did Koloane stand to gain by allowing the Guptas to land and why (if he really was guilty of this serious offence) was he only demoted and not fired completely. It is clear that the full story is not public knowledge yet. Jacob Zuma was scheduled to attend the wedding, but cancelled after the incident became public.

It is also clear that the Guptas have influence over Cabinet appointments – to any reasonable person. What would individuals like Vytjie Mentor or Mcebisi Jonas have to gain by lying about the Guptas offering them Cabinet positions? After Barbara Hogan was fired by Zuma, Mentor was offered the position of Minister of Public Enterprises, only if she arranged that SAA (South African Airways) drop their India route, paving the way for Gupta-owned Jet Airways to take on the route. Jonas, who was recently dismissed by Zuma, was also offered the ministerial position (Finance Minister) shortly before the controversial dismissal of Nhlanhla Nene (December 2015) but rejected the offer, stating that “it makes a mockery of our hard-earned democracy”.

The Sunday Times reported that the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, and then Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, David van Rooyen met with members of the Gupta family in Dubai. Van Rooyen was controversially appointed Finance Minister by Zuma in December 2015) and this is further proof of state-capture. Minister Zwane was also under scrutiny after assisting in the sale of a large coal mine to a Gupta owned company.

From contracts with ESKOM in which they under-perform, to dodgy home affairs links, it is clear that Gupta-linked businesses has taken over the South African public sector and SOEs specifically.

According to bodyguards of the Gupta-family, Ajay Gupta would meet Jacob Zuma 3 times a week, until 2015, and they often saw important government officials such as Hlaudi Motsoeneng (former CEO of the SABC). They also stated that it was not unusual for large amounts of money in cash moving out of the Guptas’ Saxonworld estate.

The Gupta’s has effectively usurped the function of the ANC deployment committee (according to Ranjeni Munusamy – Daily Maverick) thereby undermining the party’s ability to independently and legitimately select senior ministers and executives in government and state owned companies.

I wonder what person would be willing to represent the Guptas in court against South African banks who severed their ties with Gupta-owned businesses. Even the Bank of China cut its ties with Gupta owned VR Laser. It is not common-place for banks to sever their ties with a company, and they clearly have evidence that led to them refusing Gupta-companies. It comes as no surprise that the lawyer representing the Guptas in court is none other than Pieter van der Merwe the brother of Dawie van der Merwe who is the CEO of VR Laser.

The Gupta’s influence was subject of a state-capture report by former public protector, Thuli Madonsela, which was subsequently shot down and no further action was taken by the ANC or government’s structures.

Let us look at the influence that Johann Rupert has in South Africa. Firstly, it is very clear that, unlike the Guptas, the majority of Johann Rupert’s wealth comes from outside of South Africa. This immediately proves that the allegations that Johann Rupert is “stealing money from South Africa” are false. Johann Rupert owns Remgro Limited, VenFin Limited, Compagnie Financiere Richemont and Reinet.

The main difference between the Guptas and Rupert is clear, Rupert donates a lot to charity, especially in South Africa. Johann Rupert donates his entire remuneration (as head of Richemont) to charity each year. He founded the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in 1990, funding 65 projects globally (having a particular emphasis on underprivileged children). Rupert also donates a lot to South African wildlife charities and other initiatives. It is impossible to list all of Rupert’s philanthropies here, and I recommend you look at his Philanthropies page (http://philanthropies.org/johann-rupert/)

Here follows an extract from a Times Media article about Bell Pottinger ,who was hired by the Gupta family and subsequently started a smear-campaign against former client Rupert, in which they interviewed Rupert.

 “They altered my Wikipedia page,” he says. “I e-mailed [Wikipedia founder] Jimmy Wales, a friend of mine, and they fixed it. They also photoshopped [ex City Press editor] Ferial Haffajee sitting on my lap — I’ve never met her. So she is now furious with these trolls. They’re attacking Peter Bruce. Everybody who dares raise the truth is attacked. And I’ve never spoken to Julius Malema but I was not surprised by his statement that the minister of state security is paying people to find dirt on me. Instead of looking for real terrorists, this is what they’re doing.”

Rupert says this reminds him of the apartheid regime. “Remember that the National Party shut down Remgro’s import permits for 10 months in 1988. And I was threatened by Magnus Malan with his hit squads. He said I was costing them votes because a number of us were speaking out against the NP. So what’s happening now is nothing new. Then it was because I was against apartheid,
now it’s because I’m against state capture or cronyism. The worst thing is to invest loyally in SA and create jobs and be criticised for it.”

Furthermore, unlike the Guptas, none of Rupert’s businesses currently have significant government contracts. So where does he benefit from undue influence? It is clear that a certain portion of the South African population has fallen for the smear-campaign of Bell Pottinger in their effort to try and shift the focus away from the Guptas. Bell Pottinger has since cut ties with the Gupta-family (after massive pressure from South Africans), but individuals who are pro-Zuma still use the narrative created by the PR firm. BLF are one of these pro-Zuma organisations who spread fake news.

You can form your own opinion on the facts, but any reasonable person can clearly see that the Gupta-family has undue influence in our government and have a tight grasp on the public sector. It is also very clear that Johann Rupert does not benefit from any government influence in South Africa and mostly makes his living outside of South Africa. Therefore, we should question the agenda of BLF, are they really fighting for South Africans or do they have another agenda in the shadows?

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