Exposed: Explosive Gupta e-mails at the heart of state capture

28 May 2017 - 02:05 By THANDUXOLO JIKA
The Gupta family has been caught up in a new controversy.
The Gupta family has been caught up in a new controversy.
Image: MARTIN RHODES

A series of damning e-mails seen by the Sunday Times show that the Guptas run South Africa.

The explosive evidence comes as President Jacob Zuma fights for his political life amid mounting confirmation of state capture and growing opposition in his own party to his links with the family.

The e-mails show the extent of Gupta control over cabinet ministers and parastatal CEOs and board members. The correspondence also gives insight into the role of Zuma's son Duduzane in presidential matters. Duduzane is a close Gupta associate and is believed to have made billions through this partnership.

Another series of explosive e-mails show that the Guptas were central to a scheme for Zuma and his family to acquire residency in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

However, Zuma yesterday denied the claim, saying his only home was in Nkandla.

Along with Gupta brothers Ajay, Atul and Tony, Sahara CEO Ashu Chawla emerges as a key player in the intricate web of state capture.

On several occasions Zuma has asked his critics to come forward with proof that he has done something wrong. In December he asked "Tell me what is it that I have done wrong?" while addressing a youth league rally, adding that his removal would be a victory for white monopoly capital.

Two weeks ago, on May 14, Zuma reiterated his position: "If I am not told what I have done wrong, I cannot correct my mistakes because I don't know what I have done wrong."

 WATCH: 9 things revealed from the Gupta e-mails

In the wake of Zuma's repeated denials of any wrongdoing, the Sunday Times today publishes evidence of the Gupta family's unprecedented control over government affairs.

Mr President, here is the proof!

The e-mails reveal that the Guptas:

• Were sent Mosebenzi Zwane's CV a month before he was appointed minister of mineral resources;

• Intervened to have the powers of the then communications minister, Faith Muthambi, strengthened and were forwarded a presidential proclamation detailing her powers by Muthambi herself before it was signed by Zuma;

• Received confidential information on cabinet meetings from Muthambi;

• Paid for Des van Rooyen's trip to Dubai after his appointment to the cabinet in December 2015;

• Arranged for Denel director Dan Mantsha to be chauffeured around Dubai;

• Paid for a deluxe suite for Matshela Koko - subsequently appointed acting CEO of Eskom - at the luxurious Oberoi Hotel in Dubai;

• Were asked by an SAA board member to get him onto the board of Transnet;

• Had staff coach Zwane on how to handle media conferences, including questions about his relationship with the Guptas. He flew on a Gupta jet to Dubai and they picked up the tab for his accommodation; and

• Had their company's CEO, Nazeem Howa, prepare notes for ANC Youth League president Collen Maine advising him on how to respond to media questions.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE DETAILS UNCOVERED BY THE SUNDAY TIMES:

A second home for Zuma in Dubai

On January 16 last year two draft letters were circulated from Tony Gupta to Chawla and then to Duduzane Zuma with subject lines: "JZ letter to Crown Prince AUH" and "JZ letter to Sheikh Mohammed".

In one of the letters prepared for Zuma, he writes to "His Highness Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan", congratulating him on initiatives for the developing and planning of Abu Dhabi. In the second letter Zuma commends "His Highness Vice President and Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Moktoum" for his "dynamic rule and visionary leadership".

He continues to sing both their praises and then requests their "guidance and direction" for making the United Arab Emirates his second home.

"It is with this sentiment that I am happy to inform you that my family has decided to make the UAE a second home. It will be a great honour for me and my family to gain your patronage during our proposed residency in the UAE."

Two months after the draft letters, Zuma added Dubai at the last minute to his Saudi Arabia state visit. There he met Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to discuss a "number of regional issues".

At the time, the Sunday Times reported that sources close to the Presidency confirmed that the Dubai stopover was indeed added at the last minute.

• The ministers

Des van Rooyen

E-mail correspondence prove that Van Rooyen repeatedly lied when he said he paid for a private trip to Dubai shortly after his appointment to the cabinet in December 2015.

At a press conference in April 2016 Van Rooyen vehemently denied that his December 21 trip was done at short notice, saying it was planned long before his brief appointment as finance minister and later minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs.

At the time he said: "It was a private visit, I paid for that myself. You know I didn't have enough [money]. I was supposed to stay for a week, but you know, it was in and out".

The e-mail correspondence, however, shows that the trip was sponsored by the Guptas and booked just a day before his departure on December 21.

Reservations e-mails from the luxurious five-star Oberoi Hotel to Chawla confirm that bookings were done by the Gupta-owned company.

Van Rooyen was chauffeur-driven with a Jaguar XJ L from the airport to the hotel and booked a deluxe suite, which costs about R6,000 a night. The room reservations from the e-mails indicate that the booking at the hotel was for two adults.

Chawla sent Van Rooyen's reservation confirmation to Salim Essa, a Gupta associate who owns shares in several of the family's companies.

The Sunday Times reported last year that Van Rooyen's advisers - two days after his appointment as finance minister - leaked confidential cabinet information to Essa, saying "Gents Finally".

It has been widely claimed that Van Rooyen's appointment as finance minister was influenced by the Guptas. He even arrived at the Treasury with two advisers said to be linked to the Guptas, Mohamed Bobat and Ian Whitley. The two moved with him to cooperative governance.

The Sunday Times also reported that Van Rooyen visited the Gupta compound in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, for seven consecutive days before his appointment as finance minister.

Mosebenzi Zwane

The Guptas hand-picked Zwane as mineral resources minister a month before Zuma appointed him to his cabinet in September 2015.

On July 31 2015, one France Oupa Mokoena, from Koena Consulting and Property Developers, e-mailed Tony Gupta to say: "Please find attached the CV of Mr Mosebenzi Zwane for your attention."

Three months after his appointment, Zwane stood up embassy officials when he left Zurich for Dubai in a Gupta-owned plane, on December 2.

Zwane, a staunch Gupta defender, was on a working trip in Zurich where he helped to facilitate the sale of the Optimum coal mine in Mpumalanga to a company owned by the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma.

E-mail correspondence between Chawla and the crew flying the Gupta plane reveal that Zwane flew out of Zurich with Essa, Tony Gupta and other people.

This was despite a flight ticket on an Emirates flight being booked by his department to fly him to Dubai.

E-mails from the Oberoi Hotel to Chawla confirm that Zwane's stay at the five-star hotel overlooking the Burj Khalifa was paid for by Sahara.

Zwane was chauffeured around in a BMW 7 Series. Chawla advised hotel reservations to charge the cost of the chauffeur services to a certain Mr Singh.

Further evidence of the Guptas' influence and hold over Zwane is contained in another e-mail last year.

With a subject line reading "Zwane questions", former Oakbay CEO Howa e-mailed Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zuma on February 2 last year.

"I need some help on some of the answers. I think we should also prepare for a question of his role around the Waterkloof landing.

"Perhaps I can sit with someone at his side to help me polish and add to the answers. Lets chat when you have a chance to review."

Howa drafted questions that included:

• "Given this perfect storm, you have been described as unsuited to the role of minister of mineral resources given your inexperience?"

• "Critics have slammed your appointment as proof of government's alarming lack of urgency in dealing with SA's ailing mining sector and its ambiguous regulatory framework?"

• "Your appointment seems to be really irregular? You were silently moved from MEC for Agriculture to mining minister. what do you think the president saw in you to give him the confidence to appoint you?"

• "Analysts say the mining industry is at its lowest ebb ever and this can be directly attributable to legislation, policies, ideology, corruption, inefficiency, political demagoguing, organisations not adhering to the constitution and draconian labour legislation. What is your comment?"

• "What about the rumours of your being captured by the Guptas and your appointment was made for you to do their bidding?"

• "What is your relationship with the Guptas?"

Howa then requested further information and asked for further input from Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zuma.

Zwane was one of the ministers at the forefront of trying to force South African banks to reopen closed Gupta accounts.

Faith Muthambi

Former communications minister Faith Muthambi, now the minister in charge of the public service, corresponded directly with Tony Gupta, as well as his staff, on government policy.

A series of e-mails show that the minister, who is a close ally of the president, alerted the Guptas to various changes in government policies relating to her department - even before they had been officially approved by Zuma.

One e-mail sent to Tony Gupta in January 2014 contains a proclamation - which she says is to be signed by Zuma - transferring functions under other ministers to herself.

They include those under the Electronic Communications Act, the Sentech Act and the Broadband Infraco Act.

In July that year, she sent two e-mails to Chawla.

In the first e-mail, with the subject line "Proclamation New July 18", she writes: "These sections must be transferred to the Minister of Communications."

The regulations listed in the e-mail give the communications minister wide-ranging power over the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, including the power to make policies and issue policy direction and oversee applications for electronic communications network licences, radio frequency plans and commercial broadcasting licences.

In a second e-mail sent minutes later, with the subject line "Responsibility for InfraCo and Sentech", she writes: "Sentech's signal distribution must rest with the Ministry of Communications."

Attached is a document transferring powers, functions and duties of the minister of public enterprises in the Broadband Infraco Act and the Sentech Act to herself. Both e-mails were subsequently forwarded by Chawla to Duduzane Zuma.

On July 29 2014, Muthambi sent an e-mail to Chawla, with an attachment containing a memo from Telecommunications and Postal Service Minister Siyabonga Cwele, in which he expresses concerns about proposed amendments to broadcasting digital migration policy.

In her message to Chawla - which was meant for Tony Gupta - Muthambi writes: "Despite my request, the cde is determined to table the matter in cabinet tomorrow ... He called me that he was coming to Cape Town this morning ... I hope he still on his way."

Chawla forwarded the e-mail to Tony Gupta the same day.

Muthambi was appointed public service and administration minister in March in a midnight cabinet reshuffle. As communications minister, she was accused of allowing the SABC to be plundered and run into the ground.

She was widely condemned for failing to halt former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng's abuse of power at the broadcaster.

• Youth League

Collen Maine

The e-mails show that former Oakbay CEO Howa prepared notes for ANC Youth League president Maine advising him on how to respond to media questions.

Howa's notes, which were sent to Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zuma, detail how Maine should respond to questions about the anti-Gupta revolt within the ANC, state capture, his attacks on banks, #FeesMustFall, his relationship with North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, and an incident in which he allegedly shoved R200 notes down a journalist's cleavage.

In the e-mail, Howa writes: "Maybe I can sit with young man to work on this."

The Howa notes instruct Maine to sing the praises of the Guptas.

On his view on the anti-Gupta revolt in the ANC, Howa advises Maine to say: "I hold no brief for the Guptas, but I'm celebrating how they have entered areas previously closed to anyone other than the pre-94 controllers of our economy. Today, we have a progressive newspaper and tv channel thanks to their investment. I have been there to be interviewed and I have been impressed by the number of young African people employed there.

"Our country needs job creation and it looks like they are doing it."

• The CEO

Matshela Koko

Sahara Computers paid for Koko's accommodation at the Oberoi Hotel in Dubai last year. At the time he was the Eskom group executive in charge of generating power .

Koko was chauffeur-driven around Dubai during his one-day visit.

He checked in on Monday January 4 last year and left the hotel the following day.

The e-mails show the confirmation of his booking was sent to Sahara Computers CEO Chawla.

Koko's trip took place a month after another Gupta-owned company, Tegeta Exploration and Resources, took over operations at the Optimum coal mine - supplier of coal to Eskom power stations.

Koko - who took over as acting group CEO after Brian Molefe's controversial departure last year - is on suspension following allegations that Eskom awarded tenders worth R1-billion to a company where his stepdaughter was a director.

• The Directors

Dan Mantsha

On January 3 last year, Chawla confirmed travel arrangements for Denel board chairman Dan Mantsha.

Mantsha was booked into the Oberoi Hotel in Dubai and Chawla arranged a concierge service for Mantsha to an exclusive housing estate in Dubai.

Earlier this month Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba canned a multibillion-rand deal involving a Gupta-linked company.

The deal - in which the Guptas were expected to make billions - involved setting up a joint venture between Denel and VR Laser Asia to form a new company called Denel Asia.

Denel believed the joint venture would help it "find new markets for our world-class products, especially in the fields of artillery, armoured vehicles, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles".

Gupta business associate Salim Essa is the sole shareholder of VR Laser Asia.

He is also a director of VR Laser RSA, a company owned by Duduzane Zuma and Tony Gupta through an entity called Westdawn Investments.

Ajay Gupta's son Kamal Kant Singhala was a director of VR Laser RSA but has resigned.

Rajesh Naithani

When Rajesh Naithani was dumped as an SAA board member in October 2014, he sent an e-mail to Chawla asking him to tell Tony Gupta to "get me in at Transnet".

Gigaba, who was then public enterprises minister, had appointed Naithani to the SAA board in September 2012.

Two years later it appears from e-mail correspondence that Naithani had caught wind that his days at the national airline were numbered.

In an e-mail to Chawla on September 26 2014, Naithani attaches his CV "for possible positions in boards". He adds "kindly make necessary changes".

On October 15, he writes: "I received a mail in which they have said that they will be removing seven directors from SAA which includes me.

"Please convey this to Tony Bhai [Bhai means brother in Hindi].

"Please also request him that if this does not work he may kindly get me in Transnet."

On November 19, he again e-mails Chawla: "I got the e-mail that presently I am no more a member at SAA. You may show it to Tony Bhai please."

THE PRESIDENT RESPONDS

President Jacob Zuma denied that he was planning to move to the United Arab Emirates but failed to respond to questions about his cabinet ministers' communications with the Guptas.

He said he had no plans to leave South Africa when he retires.

"I have my home in Nkandla and I have no intention of living anywhere else. When I retire I will go home to Nkandla. This is a pure fabrication. Duduzane has never spoken to me about living in any other country. He has never shown me any letter. It's shocking in the extreme. It's absolute mischief aimed at sowing confusion," said Zuma.

However, he had no explanation for why these claims were made in e-mails to Duduzane.

A spokesman for Mosebenzi Zwane, Martin Madlala, declined to answer pointed questions. He said the minister of mineral resources had travelled to promote investment.

"The visit came at a time when commodity prices were depressed, as well as responding to specific invitations from major investment companies, including Glencore. Engagements and road shows undertaken by the minister serve an important role of promoting mining in South Africa, as well as providing a platform to clarify policy and regulatory issues within the mining and minerals sectors. The minister continues to hold meetings with key mining stakeholders as he has adopted an open-door policy," said Madlala.

Madlala did not answer questions about Zwane travelling in a Gupta aircraft with Rajesh "Tony" Gupta and Salim Essa, nor why he was being driven around in a luxury car paid for by a Gupta-owned company.

Legadima Leso, a spokesman for Minister of Co-operative Governance Des van Rooyen, said the minister would comment once he was back in the country today.

"Minister is out of the country attending a conference on disaster risk reduction," said Leso.

When contacted for comment Maine said: "That is rubbish, I don't respond to rubbish".

jikat@sundaytimes.co.za

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