Monday, April 18, 2016

The Republic of Zuptania: Part 1

For months, ever since the FinMin Flip Flop on what is now known as 9/12, the alleged State Capture by the now infamous Gupta family via its ties with the Presidential Zuma family has utterly dominated the South African news sphere and even more so after the shock announcement of a Gupta ministerial offer made to Deputy Minister of Finance Mcebisi Jonas on 17 March 2016. The big question, however, is whether or not this outrage is actually warranted or more of a knee jerk trial-by-media reaction of the South African public which has previously proved itself predisposed to such types of overreactions?

I had originally planned to construct some sort of timeline of events from the Guptas first meeting President Zuma in 2003 to the reports of them landing back in India on 11 April 2016, but after hunting for news clippings and other facts for the better part of a week, I have discovered that there is simply too much information in terms of people events, dates and possible outcomes that much more would be required in order to lay this beast completely bare, if that is even possible without a Judicial Commission of Enquiry that has not been appointed by the ANC.  

Given the vast scope of the Gupta Busines Empire, I have no choice but to turn this inquiry into a series of posts evaluating the saga from numerous angles that will ultimately culminate in a series of conclusions and deductions, but also the many unanswered questions that it may render, even if I know to an almost absolute certainty that such an exposé will most likely be incomplete.

Before I continue, let me categorically state that I am not a detective, private investigator or even a journalist, I am an ordinary guy who occasionally pens a perfectly ordinary blog, but this seems important enough so first things first, the timeline. This timeline has been put together (as I said) through Google searches of news reports involving the Guptas, other key individuals and events that I feel are relevant to the saga. As a result, some of the dates mentioned below might not be entirely accurate and text in italics represent unverified allegations made by other individuals.

[Unknown] 1999: Pravin Gordhan appointed as Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

2003: The Gupta family meets Jacob Zuma (then Deputy President of the Republic) for the first time at a function hosted by the Guptas at Sahara Estate.

2005: The Gupta family supports Jacob Zuma during his power struggle against incumbent President Thabo Mbeki in the wake of the Shabir Shaik Corruption Trial. Zuma was fired from the Deputy Presidency on 14 June 2005. In the following years, Sahara Computers appoints members of the Zuma family as employees or board members.

18 December 2007: Jacob Zuma is elected ANC President at the Polokwane Elective Conference.

28 December 2007: The National Prosecuting Authority indicts Jacob Zuma to appear on 783 fraud and corruption charges in the High Court.

[Unknown] 2008: President Zuma’s daughter Duduzile is appointed to the Board of Directors of Sahara Computers.

8 July 2008: Duduzane Zuma acquires 25 shares (25%) of Mabengela Investments at R 1 per share.

28 July 2008: Mabengela Investments acquires 7.19% (60 shares) of Gemini Moon Trading 254.

September 2008: President Thabo Mbeki recalled from the Presidency due to the breakdown in the working relationship between himself and the newly elected NEC of the party.

30 September 2008: Duduzane Zuma appointed to Board of Directors of Westdawn Investments

1 February 2009: Duduzane Zuma appointed to Karibu Hospitality Board of Directors.

3 February 2009: Mabengela Investments acquires a further 102 shares in Gemini Moon Trading 254 for a total ownership stake of 17.3%. At this point Gemini held 28% ownership of Westdawn Investment/JIC Mining.

6 April 2009: Following months of legal battles and court appearances, the NPA drops all charges against Jacob Zuma due to procedural technicalities and political interference by former President Mbeki in what has become known as the “Spy Tapes Saga.”

9 May 2009: Jacob Zuma is sworn in as President of the Republic.

10 May 2009: Pravin Gordhan appointed as Minister of Finance to succeed Trevor Manuel.

3 June 2009: Duduzane Zuma appointed to Dixie Investment Board of Directors.

18 June 2009: Duduzane Zuma acquires a further 20 shares in Mabengela Investment; total ownership 45%

1November 2009: Duduzane Zuma appointed to the Boards of Directors of Islandsite Investments 254 and Islandsite Investments 255.

[Unknown] 2010: The Gupta family buys Shiva Uranium valued at R270 million with a R250 million loan from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC)

April 2010: Imperial Crown Trading 289 (ICT), enters into a legal dispute regarding the 21.4% of the prospecting rights at the Sishen Iron Ore Mine (one of the world’s largest iron ore mines) with ArcelorMittal SA and Anglo American due to the Department of Mineral Resources awarding of prospecting rights to ITC after Arcelor failed to renew its license in time. ICT is 50% owned by Jagdish Parekh, an executive in a group of Gupta-owned companies. Parekh reportedly holds the shares on behalf of Gupta-owned JIC Mining (of which he is Managing Director), which is partly owned by Duduzane Zuma through Mabengela and Gemini Moon Trading.

14 April 2010: Duduzane Zuma appointed to Shiva Uranium Board of Directors

June 2010: TNA media is founded by the Gupta family

10 June 2010: Duduzane Zuma appointed to Dunrose Investments 180 Board of Directors

29 July 2010: Duduzane Zuma appointed to Sahara Holdings Board of Directors

26 August 2010: Duduzane Zuma appointed to Afripalm Horizons Board of Directors <Company currently in process of deregistration>

October (?) 2010: Atul Gupta allegedly tells ANC MP Vytjie Mentor that she would be Public Enterprises Minister within a week if she assisted in SAA dropping its routes to India once appointed. This was presumably in order to open the routes up to be serviced by Gupta owned Jet Airways.

1 November 2010: President Zuma shuffles his Cabinet, replacing Barbra Hogan with Malusi Gigaba. Fikile Mbalula is sworn in as Minister of Sports and Recreation; Julius Malema of the EFF alleges that he was present when one of the Guptas informed Mbalula of his new position, long before he received any official information.

23 November 2010: Duduzane Zuma appointed to CRCC Afripalm Construction Board of Directors <Company currently in process of deregistration>

6 December 2010: TNA Media published the first edition the New Age newspaper with an overt and stated bias in favour of the Government/ANC.

[Unknown] 2010: Themba Maseko, then CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (CGIS) meets Ajay Gupta at the latter’s Saxonworld home upon the instruction of President Jacob Zuma. During the meeting Gupta tells Maseko that he wants Government advertising funding channelled to the New Age Newspaper. Zuma allegedly told Maseko that “the Gupta brothers need your help.”

[Unknown] 2013: The repayment term for the R250 million IDC loan relating to the purchase of Shiva Uranium lapses with the loan partially unpaid. The IDC decides to convert the debt (accounting for 90% of the company’s purchase price) to an equity share of 3%.

April 2013: The Guptas’ private plane lands at Waterkloof Air Force Base and the 217 guests to a family wedding are given a blue light escort to Sun City. Chief of State Protocol Bruce Koloane authorised the landing by using Zuma’s name with the latter cancelling his attendance of the wedding after the incident, Guptagate, became public.

19 April 2013: A Daily Maverick article (by Mandy de Wall) reports that Government related advertising through State-owned Enterprises, Government Departments and other Government linked organisations were responsible for 60% (some R75 million) of the New Age Newspaper’s advertising revenues for 2012, with Telkom investing some R31 million with the paper during the year.

August 2013: Africa News Network (ANN7), owned by Infinity Media Networks launches on DSTV. Infinity’s ownership is comprised of Oakbay Investments (35%), Essel Media (35%), BEE partner Mabengela Investments (21%) and reserved shares 9%.

December 2013: The Constitutional Court rules against ICT with regards to the mining rights at Sishen Mine.

26 May 2014: Nhlanhla Nene appointed as Minister of Finance, moving Pravin Gordhan to Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

July 2014: Iqbal Sharma obtains a stake in VR Laser Services, the company in the lead to secure some R50 billion in tenders from Transet, while serving as Chairman of the committee overseeing the tender process. VR Laser Services is 25% owned by Gupta Mining Company JIC Mining Services, while a business “associate” Salim Essa owns 75%. Duduzane Zuma also got a stake through Westdawn Investments. The company’s current address is the same office used by other Gupta businesses.

September 2014: Mark Pamensky is appointed as a non-executive member the Oakbay Minerals and Resource Board of Directors.

27 September 2014: Tom Moyane takes office as Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service.

28 November 2014: Oakbay Resources and Energy listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange

December 2014: Mark Pamensky is appointed to the ESKOM Board of Directors.

August 2015: Glencore’s Optimum Colliery puts itself under financial rescue following a drop in coal prices and a R2.2 billion fine imposed on it by ESKOM for the supply of sub-specification coal to the Hendrina Power Plant in Mpumalanga. The company suspended its contract three weeks later.

September 2015: Former Free State MEC of Agriculture, Mosebenzi Zwane, is appointed and sworn in as Minister of Mineral Resources under dubious circumstances, circumventing normal Ministerial appointment procedures.

November 2015: Minister Zwane accompanies a delegation of Tegeta Exploration and Resources (Gupta owned) to Switzerland to help negotiate Glencore’s sale of the troubled Optimum Coal mine in Mpumalanga. ESKOM is reportedly keeping the R2.2 billion fine in place.

25 November 2015: Mabengela Investments acquire 317 shares (28.5%) in Tegeta Exploration and Resources at a cost of R100 million; Duduzane Zuma’s personal stake, 12.825%.

November 2015: Members of the Gupta family allegedly offers the post of Minister of Finance to Mcebisi Jonas (in the presence of Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane) on the condition that he approves the Russian Nuclear Power deal and get rid of four prominent, high ranking officials at the Treasury.

November/December 2015: David van Rooyen and Minister Mosebenzi Zwane visit Dubai, United Arab Emirates, while members of the Gupta family is in the city. Van Rooyen insists that it was a private, one day visit before his appointment as Minister of Finance.

9 December 2015: Jacob Zuma replaces Nhlanlha Nene as Finance Minister with backbencher David van Rooyen, allegedly due to the former’s resistance the R1 trillion Russian Nuclear deal and, presumably, to make way for the creation of Denel Asia. Allegedly, the Russian Nuclear Deal is signed by the Zuma Cabinet on the same day.

13 December 2015: Under vast pressure from both the ANC and Business Sector, Jacob Zuma has no choice but to recall David van Rooyen and replace him with former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, relegating van Rooyen to being Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

15 December 2015: Tegeta Exploration and Resources is declared the preferred bidder to buy Optimum Coal mine and to continue the Mine’s ESKOM contract for coal to be delivered to the Hendrina Power Plant until December 2018.

20 December 2015: In a letter to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel alleges that a childhood friend of van Rooyen, Gaddafi Rabotapi, knew about van Rooyen’s appointment a month before he was sworn in.

21 January 2016: Mabengela opens a new account with Standard Bank; Duduzane Zuma sole authorised signatory.

29 January 2016: VR Laser Services announces that it has entered into a joint venture with DENEL to create DENEL Asia without prior approval by the Minister of Finance and Minister of Public Enterprises.

14 February 2016: Africa Confidential reveals two Gupta allies, Ian Whitley and Mohammed Bobat, as mystery advisors to Minister van Rooyen who showed up at the Treasury before van Rooyen was even sworn in as Finance Minister.

19 February 2016: Business Day reveals that advisor to Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebeni Zwane, Malcolm Mabaso, has ties to the Gupta family through a Directorship at Premium Security and Cleaning Services along with confirmed Gupta business partner Salim Essa.

26 February 2016: Mabengela is gifted another 71 shares in Tegeta Exploration and Resources to maintain ownership at 28.5% at a value of just under R96 million.

10 March 2016: EFF Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu alleges in a press release that the Guptas have moved R2 billion in funds from South Africa to the United Arab Emirates while the normal 10% levy on such transfers imposed by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has not been deducted from the transfer.

16 March 2016: Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas publicly alleges that the Guptas offered him the position of Finance Minister prior to the sacking of Nanlha Nene on 9 December 2010.

17 March 2016: Former ANC Member of Parliament reveals that Atul Gupta offered her the position of Minister of Public Enterprises to replace Barbra Hogan just prior to the Cabinet-reshuffle in November 2010.

18 March 2016: Former ESKOM chairman Zola Tsotsi claims that he was removed from the ESKOM Board of Directors because she refused to facilitate business deals that would benefit Gupta owned businesses.

18 March 2016: The Dominican Order of Catholic Priests asks the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, to investigate the claims of the Guptas’ influence over Ministerial appointments.

20 March 2016: The Sunday Times report how Themba Maseko‚ former CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS)‚ told how President Jacob Zuma personally called him to ensure that he met the Gupta brothers at their Saxonwold compound in Johannesburg.

20 March 2016: ANC Secretary General invites party members with information about the Gupta state capture to come forward and provide proof of such influence at the ANC Headquarters at Luthuli House, asking such members to refrain from making the information public.

21 March 2016: Private investigator Paul o’Sullivan allegedly sends an email to the Directorate for Priority Crimes (Hawks) daring them to arrest him when he flies to London on 4 April 2016, since he would go an expose the “Zuptas to the world.” The claims include that “the Zupta crooks infiltrated and criminalised SAA, the SAPS, the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority.”

23 March 2016: The Special Investigations Unit (Hawks) announce an investigation into the affairs of the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma.

31 March 2016: EFF leader Julius Malema alleges that President Jacob Zuma couriered some R6 billion of the Guptas’ money to Dubai on a recent visit.

1 April 2016: International auditing firm KPMG ends its fifteen year relationship with the Guptas, citing the association risk to its public image as primary reason.

3 April 2016: ABSA bank and investment bank SASFIN cut all ties and closes all accounts linked to Oakbay and the Guptas

4 April 2016: Paul o’Sullivan arrested at O.R Tabo International Airport for allegedly “contravening the Immigration Act.”

6 April 2016: First National Bank (FNB) indicates that it will close down all accounts linked to the Guptas; no reason cited.

7 April 2016: Atul Gupta, Ajay Gupta, their wives and five assistants leave the country late at night from Lanseria Airport carrying a mountain of luggage.

8 April 2016: The Guptas and Duduzane Zuma announce their immediate resignations from all Boards of Directors of Oakbay and other Gupta linked companies in separate statements issued to the press. Zuma also indicates that he will “exit” all his investments from the group of companies.

10 April 2016: City Press reveals Duduzane’s Equity share in various companies, that which could be valued, to be worth more than R700 million.

11 April 2016: Using, News24 reveals that the plane carrying the Guptas landed in Dubai before taking off (at 00.10 on Monday 11 April 2016) for Nakur, India, 30 kilometers from their ancestral town of Saharanpur.

14 April 2016: Pictures and reports emerge of President Zuma being present at the opening of a weapons factory in Saudi-Arabia during his latest state visit. The factory is reportedly a joint venture between Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) and Saudi Military Industries Corporation (Samic).

I did call it a beast, didn’t I? But fear not, we will clear all this up in due time.

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