Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters are using social media to declare war on the Guptas, an entrepreneurial family that immigrated to South Africa from India in the 1990s, becoming citizens and growing rich in the post-apartheid era.
Malema blames the Guptas for many of South Africa’s problems and demands that they leave the country, AFP reported. “We cannot allow a situation where South Africa is colonized by a family,” Malema said, according to AFP.
The party and its leader were charged Tuesday in a North Gauteng High Court with inciting acts of violence against the Gupta family and their staff and property including companies Oakbay Investments‚ The New Age and ANN7.
Court document said that some Gupta business executives received threatening phone calls Monday, BusinessDayLive reported.
Gupta lawyers say the family are South African citizens and entitled to protection under the law. The EFF’s behavior constitutes “xenophobic threats of violence and in direct conflict with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.”
Malema responded by posting “25 reasons why the Guptas must leave or be made to leave the country immediately #Guptasmustgo”, BusinessDayLive reported.
The Guptas are seen by many South Africans including ANC insiders and opposition critics of President Jacob Zuma as as exerting undue influence on him. The Gupta name has been associated with huge business deals, an extravagant wedding party that involved the use of government resources, and political scandals, AFP reported, according to the DailyMail.
Some of Zuma’s closest allies in Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions) and South African Communist Party have spoken out about their growing irritation with the Gupta’s influence on senior ANC leaders, TheDailyMaverick reported on Feb. 1.
To outsiders the Guptas may seem an industrious immigrant family that made it big in their adopted country, but now they’ve become the battleground in efforts by the opposition to remove Zuma from power, AFP reported.
Gupta brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh built their wealth in South Africa with interests in media, mining, computers, and engineering.
Zuma defends his friendship with the family, and some of his ministers also have ties to the Guptas.
Duduzane Zuma, the president’s son, is a director of the Gupta’s Sahara Computers and is a partner in some of their other businesses. Zuma’s third wife Bongi Ngema, was a Gupta employee.
“There appears to be a Gupta hand in every business sector,” said political analyst Prince Mashele in an AFP interview.
Growing successful by having friends in high places isn’t something the Guptas invented.
“Every successful business, whether family or otherwise — they all managed to get terribly successful because of their proximity to power. This is true everywhere,” said Political Analyst Ebrahim Fakir in a HindustanTimes interview. “The trouble is they (the Guptas) appear to have been lobbying in an unethical way.”
Malema describes his actions against the Guptas as war, AFP reported. “We will do to the Guptas what we did to the colonisers and apartheid,” he said. “We can no longer tolerate it. It’s a battle, it’s a war against the Guptas.”
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Enemies can be helpful in social media campaigns, creating controversy that, directed artfully, can lead to some seriously powerful outcomes, Singer blogged on TheFutureBuzz.
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Atul Gupta, the first brother to arrive in South Africa, scouted for business opportunities in 1993, according to DailyMail. The family founded Sahara Computer in 1994.
Their business interests include ANN7, a 24-hour news channel broadcasting since 2013, and the New Age, a pro-government newspaper launched in 2010. The Gupta’s residential compound has been controversial in the upmarket Johannesburg district of Saxonwold.
There has been no formal investigation into the relationship between Zuma and the Guptas, but it looks like an improper alliance, said Adriaan Basson, author of the book “Zuma Exposed,” in an AFP interview.
“There is a feeling that the Guptas are almost running the state,” Basson said. “I can’t see President Zuma turning his back on the Gupta family.”
Malema warned that employees of Gupta companies could be at risk. “We cannot guarantee the safety of Gupta employees at our events,” Malema told reporters, according to HindustanTimes.
These are some of the 25 reasons the EFF says the Guptas must leave South Africa or be forced to leave
• The Guptas are influencing President Jacob Zuma on the nuclear deal. “After they acquired uranium mines‚ they stand to benefit greatly from the deal through supplying uranium. Zuma has been advised that the country cannot afford this nuclear deal‚ but because the Guptas family stands to benefit‚ it is being forced through. The nuclear deal will plunge SA into a massive fiscal crisis‚ collapsing SA’s currency‚ ratings and ability to provide basic services to its people.”
• Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was removed and replaced with David van Rooyen, according to the EFF, because the Guptas said so. “The thoughtless action of removing a minister of finance weakened SA’s currency‚ making it more expensive for SA to import goods and services from outside the country‚ and making life of ordinary South Africans more oppressive. A weakened currency has a tendency to increase inflation‚ further burdening ordinary South Africans.”
• The EFF said that the Guptas were exploiting SA’s resources and ” enriching themselves through corruption‚ under the guise of freedom”.
“They illegally influence the issuing of mining rights‚ and have effectively taken control of key parastatals such as the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation)‚ Transnet‚ Eskom‚ SAA (South African Airways) and now Denel.”
• The party said the Guptas had the premiers of the Free State and North West provinces‚ ministers‚ chairpersons and CEOs of state-owned enterprises in “their network of influence”.
“They also have control over many critical decisions that they‚ and the puppets they control‚ financially benefit from.”
• They call members of the African National Congress (ANC) national executive committee to tell them which ministerial position they have been awarded before Mr Zuma’s official announcement. “Fikile Mbalula was told by Atul Gupta that he was going to be minister of sports before Zuma announced the decision.”
• The EFF said the Guptas had taken over key decisions of the ruling party‚ “including bankrolling the re-election of Zuma as president of the ANC in the 2012 national conference”.