Brown’s as­sis­tant is lat­est scalp claimed by #Gup­taLeaks

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - LUYOLO MKENTANE @luy­olomken­tane

PUB­LIC En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Lynne Brown’s per­sonal as­sis­tant, Kim Davids, has joined the grow­ing list of Gupta acolytes who were pushed out of gov­ern­ment un­der a cloud fol­low­ing their links to the po­lit­i­cally con­nected fam­ily.

In a shock move yes­ter­day, Brown axed Davids but stressed that her de­ci­sion “is not an ex­pres­sion of guilt” on her for­mer aide who is linked to the Gup­tas, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s per­sonal friends.

Sev­eral other Gupta lieu­tenants, in­clud­ing for­mer Eskom bosses Ben Ngubane and Brian Molefe, left the gov­ern­ment un­der a cloud re­cently fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion in­volv­ing the Gup­tas, which are con­tained in a trove of leaked e-mails dubbed #Gup­taLeaks.

An­other Gupta ally, Eskom chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Anoj Singh, who has been at pains to ex­plain his lux­u­ri­ous trips to Dubai al­legedly funded by the Gup­tas, has been placed on suspension at the re­quest of Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba and Brown.

Yes­ter­day, Brown said she was con­fronted by al­le­ga­tions against Davids, who came un­der scru­tiny af­ter leaked emails put her firmly at the cen­tre of a Dubai ho­tel bill and a chauf­feured drive to the Gup­tas’ home in the wealthy Arab city.

“In the in­ter­est of fair­ness, I asked Ms Davids to re­spond to th­ese al­le­ga­tions. I was sat­is­fied with her re­sponses but I felt the con­tin­u­ous al­le­ga­tions against her could com­pro­mise the le­git­i­macy of my of­fice. My de­ci­sion is not an ex­pres­sion of guilt on the part of Ms Davids. How­ever, it is im­por­tant that my of­fice is above re­proach. I want to thank Ms Davids for her ser­vice and wish her well,” Brown said in a state­ment.

Davids, how­ever, has de­nied any wrong­do­ing on her part, say­ing she paid for the Dubai trip her­self.

When con­tacted for com­ment, she said be­fore cut­ting off the call: “I’m not say­ing any­thing. No com­ment.”

Davids, ac­cord­ing to jour­nal­ism in­ves­tiga­tive units amaBhun­gane and Scorpio, wielded so much in­flu­ence over Brown that she would “tackle se­nior of­fi­cials” in meet­ings, even “in­struct­ing” them on oc­ca­sion.

Davids, they said, was so pow­er­ful that she al­legedly per­son­ally man­aged the process to select new board ap­point­ments to state-owned en­ter­prises dur­ing 2015 when some cru­cial ap­point­ments of per­sons sym­pa­thetic to the Gup­tas were made.

The Par­lia­ment’s pub­lic en­ter­prises port­fo­lio com­mit­tee was ex­pected to start an in­quiry into al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and state cap­ture in­volv­ing the Gup­tas and their acolytes in state-owned en­ter­prises.

Com­mit­tee mem­bers were said to be gun­ning for the Gupta broth­ers and their business part­ner, Zuma’s son Duduzane, Ngubane and Molefe, among oth­ers, to ap­pear be­fore the com­mit­tee and an­swer al­le­ga­tions that due pro­cesses were flouted to ben­e­fit the im­mi­grant Indian fam­ily.

In an in­ter­view on BBC Ra­dio 4 this week, one of the Gupta broth­ers, Atul, said the leaked emails were part of an agenda to dis­tort the fam­ily’s name.

“There is no au­then­tic­ity of #Gup­taLeaks at all. They are all there for per­cep­tion mon­ger­ing to drive their own agenda. No one has ever showed me au­then­tic­ity of th­ese mails,” he said.

Atul, who was named as the sev­enth-rich­est South African last year, said the Lon­don-based PR firm Bell Pot­tinger was only hired to do cor­po­rate pub­lic re­la­tions for the fam­ily’s com­pany, Oak­bay Re­sources.

The dis­cred­ited PR firm is ac­cused of stok­ing racial ten­sions in the coun­try to pro­tect the Gup­tas’ rep­u­ta­tion. They have since dropped the Gup­tas as a client.

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