The Gupta family – who have strong ties with president Jacob Zuma, and have been accused of having sway over government decisions – insist they are not involved in local politics.
In an interview with the Financial Times, both president Zuma and Ajay Gupta have defended their relationship, denying the family had any influence over politics or had benefited unduly from their relations.
“We are business people and we have nothing to do with politics,” said Gupta, in a rare interview.
According to Gupta, the eldest of three brothers, only 1% of the more than R5 billion ($325 million) annual revenue generated from their businesses is derived from government contracts..
“It’s rubbish, completely rubbish,” Gupta said, in response to questions about whether his family has influenced ministerial appointments. “These are all rumours and you cannot give a reply to the rumours. You cannot justify it.”
The Guptas trace their roots in South Africa to the early 1990s when Atul Gupta, one of the three brothers, opened a shoe shop in Johannesburg. His brothers, Rajesh and Ajay, arrived in 1997 and established Sahara Computers.
The Gupta empire has since entered into mining, property and the media, which Ajay Gupta puts down to “hardworking people”.
According to the FT, Sahara Holdings and Oakbay Investments generated revenue of R1.35 billion and R3.6 billion respectively in the 12 months to the end of February 2015.
Oakbay Investments’ holdings include:
- Mining: A 60% stake in JIC Mining Services and smaller shareholdings in Thembekile Mining, Kebrastyle, Extriforce and Leswene Mining and Exploration. Shiva Uranium is owned by Oakbay Resources & Energy, a company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and controlled by the Guptas.
- Engineering: Scipio Technologies, which makes armoured personnel carriers; VR Laser Services, a steel manufacturer that also produces armoured vehicles and trains.
- Media: Oakbay has a two-thirds stake in TNA Media, the publisher of The New Age newspaper, and is the majority shareholder in Infinity Media, which operates the ANN7 News Channel.
- Real estate and leisure: It has a stake in Clifftop Lodge in Welgevonden, a conservation area in Limpopo; and a “number of prime real estate holdings” in Durban, Cape Town and other locations.
- Sahara Holdings’ main interests include Sahara Computers.
The FT noted that Duduzane Zuma, President Jacob Zuma’s son, has direct or indirect holdings in several Gupta-controlled entities including: Infinity Media, the holding company for ANN7 (9.8%), Sahara Holdings (5%) and Westdawn Investments (10%), another Oakbay investment vehicle which owns a stake in VR Laser.
Tegeta Exploration & Resources, a mining firm, is 34.5% owned by the Guptas’ Oakbay Investments and 28.5% owned by Duduzane’s Mabengela Investments.
Mabengela is 45% owned by Duduzane and 25% owned by Rajesh Gupta. Duduzane and Rajesh Gupta are listed as directors of Islandsite 255, which has a 26% stake in Shiva Uranium.