The residence of the prominent Gupta family in South Africa has been raided by an elite South African police unit. The influential business family has been at the center of the scandal surrounding embattled President Jacob Zuma.
South African President Jacob Zuma’s government has been accused of improper dealings with the South African based Gupta family. Brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh (also known as Tony) Gupta, all in their 40s, relocated to South Africa from India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh in Saharanpur in 1993.
They run a company called the Sahara Group (no relation to the Indian company of the same name). As of December 2016, their company has an annual turnover of about 200m rand ($22m; £14.3m) and employs close 10,000 people. They have interests in computers, mining, air travel, energy, technology and media.
In 2016, leaked emails and documents (over 100,000) appeared to highlight improper dealings between the Gupta family and the government. The family has been able to land a number of lucrative government deals for decades. Additionally, Zuma and his family have strong ties to the Guptas. Zuma’s daughter Duduzile was a Director at Sahara Computers. His son, who was also a Director of one of the Gupta-owned companies, stepped down due to public pressure.
There has been significant backlash against both Zuma and the Gupta family. Thousands have taken to the streets to protest the alleged influence wielded by the Guptas. Zuma and the Gupta family have denied any wrongdoing.
India’s relationship with Africa
Africa’s trade with India has grown nearly 35% every year from 2005. As of 2015, trade between the continent and India was around $100 billion. There are further plans of boosting trade ties. It was decided during the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) India Economic Summit that India-Africa trade would increase to $500 billion by 2020.
Indian diaspora in Africa
India has more than a 3000 year history of cultural and commercial relations with Africa. In South Africa, the total strength of the Indian Diaspora is 1,218,000 and they constitute nearly 3% of the total population of South Africa. They are concentrated in the major industrial centres of South Africa and around 75% of the Indian community lives in Kwazulu Natal. Prominent personalities such as Ahmed Kathrada fought against the Apartheid movement.
In February 2018, reports emerged that an elite police squad had raided one of the homes owned by the Gupta family. In addition, local media has also reported that at least three arrests have been made including that of one Gupta brother and a family associate. Some other associated parties are reportedly negotiating terms to turn themselves over to the police.
Hangwani Mulaudzi, a spokesman for the police unit known as the Hawks, said the raid was part of an investigation into allegations of influence-peddling in the government. “We’re viewing this investigation in a very serious light. We’re not playing around in terms of making sure that those who are responsible in the so-called state capture, they take responsibility for it,” Mulaudzi said. The reputation that the Gupta family now has in South Africa is extremely poor. This move would prove to be favorable for Cyril Ramaphosa who has vowed to root out corruption in the country.
Our assessment is that the scandal surrounding the Gupta family would be detrimental to India’s image as a whole. There is already some resentment against Indian families in West and East Africa who are equated to neo colonizers. This comes during a period when the Indian government is trying to expand its influence and goodwill in the region. There have been widely respected members of Indian origin like Ahmed Kathrada, who are still venerated. However, the controversy around the Gupta family is likely to leave a sour taste with Africans.