Hula hoop and wed­ding card tricks

Un­sus­pect­ing school prin­ci­pals duped by Gup­tas ‘do­na­tions’

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - CHANTALL PRES­ENCE and MAYIBONGWE MAQHINA | Ad­di­tional re­port­ing – Xin­hua/NAN

AS FAR as North West Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Sello Le­hari is con­cerned, the Gupta fam­ily never made any in­vest­ments at schools in his prov­ince, despite the fam­ily list­ing this as a mo­ti­va­tion for early nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion.

Le­hari was yes­ter­day tes­ti­fy­ing at a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into how the Gupta broth­ers, close friends of for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, and other rel­a­tives and as­so­ciates of the fam­ily ob­tained early cit­i­zen­ship via nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion in South Africa.

The fam­ily listed as a mo­ti­va­tion in­vest­ments of R25 bil­lion in South Africa, in­clud­ing at schools.

Le­hari said the first they learned about the “al­leged in­vest­ments” at schools in the North West was when Par­lia­ment’s home af­fairs com­mit­tee, which is con­duct­ing the in­quiry, con­tacted them in May.

Le­hari said when his depart­ment in­ves­ti­gated the 77 schools listed by the Gup­tas in their ap­pli­ca­tion for early nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion, of­fi­cials could not ver­ify the ex­is­tence of one of them, while var­i­ous oth­ers had not ben­e­fited despite, be­ing listed as ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

The MEC said proof was found that com­pa­nies linked to the Gupta’s Oak­bay group had in­ter­acted with school prin­ci­pals in 2013 with­out the depart­ment’s knowl­edge.

Le­hari said the Gup­tas had “se­cretly gained ac­cess” to his prov­ince.

“They tricked un­sus­pect­ing school prin­ci­pals that their learners and schools were par­tic­i­pat­ing in a draw­ing com­pe­ti­tion,” he said.

Schools were in­vited in April 2013 to en­ter a com­pe­ti­tion to de­sign a wed­ding card for the lav­ish Sun City wed­ding of the Gupta broth­ers’ niece Vega Gupta, 23, and In­dian-born Aakash Ja­ha­j­garhia.

Af­ter­wards the win­ning schools and pupils were given do­na­tions, in­clud­ing cash prizes from R1 000 to R15 000, as well as soc­cer cones, hula hoops, mini-soc­cer sets and whis­tles.

“It emerged dur­ing the in­quiry that what was re­ceived was not nec­es­sar­ily a dona­tion, it was ac­tu­ally Oak­bay giv­ing a to­ken of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for de­sign­ing the wed­ding card,” said Le­hari.

The in­quiry is be­ing held af­ter Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba in March told jour­nal­ists none of the Gupta broth­ers were South African cit­i­zens.

The next day the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) con­firmed Atul Gupta was a reg­is­tered voter, a right only cit­i­zens were en­ti­tled to.

Gi­gaba and Mkuseli Apleni, for­mer direc­tor-gen­eral at the Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs, are among the peo­ple to be sum­moned to ap­pear at the in­quiry, ac­cord­ing to com­mit­tee chair­per­son Hlo­mani Chauke.

Chauke said this week, the ad­mis­si­bil­ity of the leaked Gupta emails would be looked into.

This came af­ter the Or­gan­i­sa­tion Un­do­ing Tax Abuse (Outa) gave Par­lia­ment ev­i­dence and doc­u­ments in con­nec­tion with the nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion of the Gup­tas, and work per­mits and visas of em­ploy­ees in Gupta com­pa­nies.

Th­ese, ex­cept for some taken from one news web­site, were re­trieved from the leaked emails.

Outa said they were told the emails were au­then­tic.

The Gupta fam­ily were granted South African cit­i­zen­ship be­tween 2002 and 2006 af­ter en­ter­ing the coun­try in the early 1990s.

Nqo­bile Mbonambi/African News Agency(ANA)

MU­SI­CIAN Vusi Mahlasela was awarded an hon­orary doc­tor­ate of mu­sic from the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal yes­ter­day in recog­ni­tion of his con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety and the global mu­sic in­dus­try. In his ac­cep­tance speech Mahlasela, who is an ac­com­plished gui­tarist, per­cus­sion­ist, com­poser and ar­ranger, called on all South Africans to in­vest in and sup­port the arts. |

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