President Jacob Zuma’s friend and political ally, Atul Gupta has been named one of the richest businessmen in South Africa.
The 47-year-old Gupta known as the most prominent of the three brothers from the family was named the seventh-richest South African, according to the latest Business Times Rich List.
Having a personal wealth valued at R10-billion, Atul Gupta is also named South Africa’s “richest black businessman”, overtaking Patrice Motsepe, according to the report.
This is despite strong accusations that the prominent business family have been accused of using their close relations with President Jacob Zuma to fraudulently enrich themselves. Atul came into South Africa from India in 1993 in search for business opportunities for the family and by November 2014, his stake in Oakbay – the family investment -was worth R16.48-billion, placing him in the dollar-billionaire ranks at $1.17-billion.
The business mogul now stands on the list of top 10 on the Business Times Rich List that includes Shoprite’s Christo Wiese, Glencore’s Ivan Glasenberg and FirstRand’s Laurie Dippenaar makes him South Africa’s top black billionaire.
Mining mogul Patrice Motsepe, for years the leading black businessman on the list, is now ranked at 11th, with his personal wealth valued at just over R9.5-billion. Reacting to the news, ANC stalwart and Anglo chairman Sipho Pityana said the news about Gupta’s wealth was disturbing considering that the number of black businessmen in the top 100 list has declined.
“It is clear that under Zuma’s watch, black ownership of the economy is shrinking and the entire BEE project has regressed,” Pityana told Sunday Times reporter. Similarly, Save South Africa, a well-known organisation and civil society groups having prominent individuals who aim at keeping the government accountable,- revealed their shock at the huge wealth already accumulated by the controversial family.
The group said: “For one man to have acquired so much wealth, so fast, is in itself very disturbing. But when it is Atul Gupta, a man whose every business activity is being questioned because of corruption, money-laundering and his penchant for peddling posts in public office, we really have to say: there is something fundamentally wrong.”
The Guptas’ close ties to Zuma paved the way for his son Duduzane to be taken in as the family’s business partner – making him a multimillionaire along the way. The family also employed one of Zuma’s wives, Bongi Ngema-Zuma, and Duduzane’s twin sister, Duduzile. Both later left the Gupta businesses.
Apparently, the family has been accused of benefiting from crucial government support, stemming from their closeness to Zuma. Ajay Asks Save South Africa has however, expressed concern at the decrease of black ownership in the county’s economy.
“It is clear that, under Zuma’s watch, black ownership of the economy is shrinking and the entire black economic empowerment project has regressed,” Save South Africa said following a report that Black men occupied only 35 of the 200 positions on the rich list, with women claiming just seven.