'The Republic of Gupta': fascinating book reveals how one family compromised a country

06 June 2017 - 14:20 By Graeme Hosken
Atul Gupta at his home in Saxonwold in Johannesburg. File photo
Atul Gupta at his home in Saxonwold in Johannesburg. File photo

Investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh lays bare the rags-to-riches lifestyle of the Gupta family in 'The Republic of Gupta: A Story of State Capture', and discloses their thirst for control and wealth through outrageous manipulation.

Myburgh currently works for News24 and spent over a year researching and writing the book.

From the development of school computer labs, to naming rights for South African cricket stadiums, to ownership of banks, news companies, luxury game farms, coal and iron ore mines - and our ''beloved" President Jacob Zuma and his merry men and women - the author hones in on the family's mysterious and meteoric rise to power and seizure of the presidency and the state.

Back in their home country, India, some say the family is not particularly powerful - that they were always wannabes staring in through the clubhouse window at a life that they couldn't obtain there.

Atul Gupta sold shoes in a flea market; now he's the seventh richest person in South Africa, worth more than R10-billion.

How did they do it? And who have they influenced to ensure that they have Zuma in their back pockets and at their beck and call? How did they manage to get their paws on a good portion of South Africa's wealth?

This is what Myburgh carefully unwraps, zeroing in on the activities of the multi-billionaire Gupta brothers. He takes readers back to the beginning of South Africa's fledgling democracy and to the start of the family's journey into the hallways of the Union Buildings and ANC's Luthuli House headquarters - all part of their mission to become South Africa's powerhouse family.

The book is cleverly crafted as it carefully maps the equally cleverly crafted schemes that would end up ensuring the family's rise to power.

The reader is encouraged to question whether some of our former presidents have been duped unwittingly by the brothers or have lain down with the devil, so to speak, with their eyes wide open - allowing the family to cement the foundations of the political partnerships that would give rise to the state capture crisis South Africa is now waking up to.

With his uncanny knack of uncovering and exposing the threads of evidence, Myburgh paints a picture so horrible it almost beggars belief. The scary thing is that when you come to the end of The Republic of Gupta: A Story of State Capture, it is unfortunately not the end of the story for South Africa.

With daily #GuptaSagas set to continue to tear at the threads of propriety of South Africa's political leaders, Myburgh's book should come as a warning to us all - think carefully before voting for people who are prepared to sell off a country and its people piecemeal for their own narrow benefits and without a twinge of conscience.


'The Republic of Gupta: A Story of State Capture' by Pieter-Louis Myburgh is published by Penguin and is available at good book stores or online for R170


Any form of state capture requires a number of key ingredients:

• A corruptible leader and a host of corruptible officials.

• A hollowed-out state that typically starts with a decaying infrastructure and collapsing service delivery.

• A ruthless private enterprise that formed a public/private partnership with the hollowed-out state.

• A bureaucracy that has little or no experience dealing with the tough negotiations required to make public/private partnerships successful.

• A citizenry that is fed red herrings, convoluted stories and is hesitant to speak out be cause no one wants to be labelled unpatriotic.

Post-1994, South Africa's services and infrastructure slowly fell into chaos and disrepair. In addition, the state experienced a brain drain. Experienced officials left in droves, leaving the rest to fend for themselves.

Neglect and a loss in capability created a hollowed-out state and questionable public/private partnerships. Ruthless tenderpreneurs and foreign enterprises saw the ideal opportunity to play the supplier power game. A desperate state was forced to make desperate moves to avoid a perceived threat of a total meltdown in services.

An essential element of any state capture agenda is to first act as a benefactor, and to lull key leaders and officials into the false belief that goodwill and humanitarian motives are the base of foreign investments.

Just as in the case of the Cosa Nostra, a favour done is a life owed. By the time the ruthless "investor" calls in the favour, state capture is already thriving and hard to combat.

Once the evidence of state capture becomes overwhelmingly obvious, those who were corralled into being willing accomplices to the crime have only one of two options left.

One is to deflect by starting smear campaigns and unleashing the powers of the state to silence the citizenry.

The other option is to admit that one's livelihood was built on ill-gotten gains and to take full accountability for one's actions.

• Issued by Growth Institute, a company specialising in management education, skills development and enterprise development.

This article was originally published in The Times.