Gupta’s deny ‘state cap­ture’

CityPress - - Business - JUSTIN BROWN justin.brown@city­

De­nials were the or­der of the day this week for those associated with the Gupta fam­ily.

At an event or­gan­ised by The New Age news­pa­per, which is owned by the fam­ily, Ajay Gupta de­nied that his fam­ily’s com­pa­nies lob­bied gov­ern­ment or that they had “cap­tured the state”.

He also de­nied hav­ing met Deputy Fi­nance Min­is­ter Mce­bisi Jonas, who is on record as say­ing that the Gup­tas last year of­fered him the po­si­tion of fi­nance min­is­ter.

On the other hand, Gupta said that his fam­ily did sit down with Cab­i­net min­is­ters “many times”. This hap­pened on the first Sun­day of the month. “We used to sit in the pres­i­den­tial guest­house,” he said. Only 1% of the Gupta fam­ily’s busi­ness was con­ducted di­rectly or in­di­rectly with gov­ern­ment, he added.

How­ever, busi­ness­man and politi­cian Tokyo Sexwale said the ju­di­ciary and Par­lia­ment had not been cap­tured, but that the jury was out on whether the ex­ec­u­tive had been cap­tured.

On the other hand, Eskom chair Ben Ngubane de­nied that the power util­ity had cur­ried favour with the Gup­tas by award­ing Op­ti­mum Coal a sup­ply con­tract.

It emerged this month that Eskom awarded a con­tract worth more than R564 mil­lion to Tegeta Ex­plo­ration and Re­sources, a coal min­ing com­pany owned by the Gupta fam­ily and Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s son Duduzane. In April, Tegeta bought Op­ti­mum Coal for R2.15 bil­lion. Moegsien Wil­liams, the ed­i­tor of The New Age, said that the Gup­tas’ com­pa­nies had made “al­ter­na­tive bank­ing ar­range­ments”, with­out ex­plain­ing fur­ther.

Be­tween De­cem­ber and the end of May, South Africa’s four ma­jor banks had closed their ac­counts with Gupta com­pa­nies.

Sexwale said that the ma­jor banks needed to ac­count for and be trans­par­ent about their de­ci­sion to close the bank ac­counts.

Given the prob­lems with the banks, Sexwale pro­posed set­ting up a state bank and also sug­gested that the SA Re­serve Bank be 100% owned by gov­ern­ment.

Nazeem Howa, Oak­bay In­vest­ments CEO, said that the Gup­tas’ com­pa­nies had been tar­geted be­cause they were new en­trants in a num­ber of mar­kets.

Howa said he did not want to call it a con­spir­acy, but rather a “re­ac­tion to a new en­trant”. “It is a pro­tec­tion of self-in­ter­est,” he said. Turn­ing from Gupta-re­lated is­sues to the New Age event, which cen­tred on the is­sue of trans­for­ma­tion, Sexwale said that de­spite 22 years of democ­racy, South Africa still had to con­tend with huge in­equal­ity, poverty and high un­em­ploy­ment. “Trans­for­ma­tion is not where it should be,” he said. Black Man­age­ment Fo­rum man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Busi Mavuso said it was a myth that there was not enough black man­age­ment tal­ent in South Africa.

“Cor­po­rate South Africa is not com­ing to the party,” she said.

Black Busi­ness Coun­cil CEO Mo­hale Ralebitso said the black in­dus­tri­al­ist pro­gramme was aimed at bring­ing new play­ers into the econ­omy.

But he was quick to add that the pro­gramme was a “drop in the ocean” com­pared to what needed to be ad­dressed in South Africa.

Mean­while, the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers said it would block the sale of its 50% stake in Ubank to the Gupta fam­ily, Bloomberg re­ported.

The Gup­tas’ Oak­bay In­vest­ments ap­proached the union to sell its stake in the bank.

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