Whenever the name Gupta is mentioned in South Africa, one among plenty things comes to mind. Among the things that could come to mind may include; a rich family, a family that made its riches off South African wealth, business selling out, Scandals, or for some, Jacob Zuma.
Whatever the sentiments, the family is among the most known and one of the wealthiest families in the country. The Guptas have their wealth covering estates, computer and the media.
The story of the South African Gupta family immediately reminds of a Gupta Dynasty which existed a long time ago and dissolved in the mid-sixth century. Although the rich dynasty was as well from India, it had no discovered link to the Guptas in South Africa.
The dynasty which began during the third century began with a wealthy family from the present Uttar Pradesh in northern India. The family rose until it ruled the area, which was then Magadha. Chandra Gupta I, the third king of the dynasty is regarded as the founder of the Gupta dynasty sometime in 320 AD.
Through the use of military force and marriages, the family extended its control to other surrounding kingdoms. These kingdoms included today’s Myanmar, Nepal and the entire Indus Valley region to the west.
A group, Hephthalites, rose around the year 450 to challenge the Guptas who by now had had their military strength down as a result of long years of peace. When the Hephthalites attacked around 480, the Guptas lost large lands and they were turned into a tributary state which collapsed by the mid 6th century.
Centuries after the first Guptas fell, another family with the same name would rise to wealth somewhere in South Africa and create what would be regarded as a Gupta empire.
The Indian South African family moved to the country in 1993, when the apartheid government was folding its mat off the country. The family came through three brothers; Ajay, Atul and Rajesh (Tony), who were all in their 40s.
The brothers left their Saharanpur home in Uttar Pradesh for the opportunities Africa in general and South Africa in specifics had to offer.
In South Africa, the brothers set up the Sahara Computers. It is from this business that the brothers continued into attaining wealth that would be described not in exaggeration as mystery.
Although the family is selling up and leaving the country for Dubai, the wealth the brothers made in the country is extremely large. Their businesses have an annual income of 200 million Rand, employing around 10,000 people in the country.
The holdings of the family according to Atul, who speaks for the rest, is shared between Sahara Holdings, which and Oakbay Investments. While Oakbay is their investment vehicle and runs their mining sector businesses, Sahara holdings takes charge of the family’s information technology interests.
The family has an estate, Sahara Estate in Johannesburg, which has at least four mansions, and valued at over R50 million. The estate has a helipad for the private jet of the brothers.
The Guptas have been linked continuously to Jacob Zuma whom it has been fingered as influencing the juicy contracts the family has been getting from the government.
Eskom contract worth more than R564m awarded to Tegeta Exploration and resources owned by the family is one among such alleged contracts.
The link had become more obvious with three members of the immediate family of Zuma working in businesses owned by the family. These were Bongi Ngema-Zuma, who is one of the president’s wives, Duduzile Zuma, his daughter, and Duduzane Zuma, who is the president’s son
As a result of how close the president and the family are, the Economic Freedom Fighters coined the term “Zumpta” from the name of the family and the president to describe them.
Cartoons to suggest the president was being controlled by the brothers were as well drawn to mock the president.
The brothers have not been able to keep themselves off controversies. In 2013 they got the rage of the country with a major controversy. This occurred when the family made use of a secure military base in Pretoria to land a plane.
The plane landed with 217 guests from India. The guests were in the country to attend the wedding of the brothers’ niece, Vega, who was the daughter of Anil Gupta and Achala Gupta, Ajay’s sister. Outcry from South Africans against the act got serious enough to have the President cancel his attendance of the wedding so as not to worsen issues.
Allegations have as well came up that the brothers have influenced the appointments of people into the cabinet of the president. Individuals including Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas have claimed the brothers have met them with ministerial appointments.