Cyril Ramaphosa takes on the Gupta elephant in the room

27 January 2019 - 00:00 By QAANITAH HUNTER
President Cyril Ramaphosa and his wife Dr Tshepo Motsepe are welcomed to the Presidential Palace in New Delhi this week by, from left, India's President Ram Nath Kovind, his wife Savita Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the South African president began his state visit to India.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and his wife Dr Tshepo Motsepe are welcomed to the Presidential Palace in New Delhi this week by, from left, India's President Ram Nath Kovind, his wife Savita Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the South African president began his state visit to India.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa took a dig at the Guptas in their own country yesterday, telling Indian business people that not all their countrymen were "rent seekers" who do "funny business".

Ramaphosa was on a state visit to India to promote SA as an investment destination.

Ramaphosa also committed to reinstating the once-lucrative direct flights between SA and India on the ailing SAA - a flight route that was cancelled allegedly to please the Guptas.

"Business people from India, to a large extent, excluding some things you may have read, have really been outstanding business people," Ramaphosa told the business people.

"They have come to SA to run businesses. Not for rent-seeking purposes and not to run funny businesses.

"Our institutions were infected by a spate of corrupt activities and we are getting out of that. We are cleansing ourselves and reposition the country and institutions."

During Ramaphosa's engagement with the Indian government and business leaders, they bemoaned high levels of corruption and the lack of ethical business practices as hindrances to their efforts to invest in SA.

In response, Ramaphosa said: "We lost our way as well but we found our way back. SA is back to good ethical adherence … back to good governance."

Most business leaders who interacted with Ramaphosa complained that, as much as they wanted to invest in SA, they found travel to and from the country cumbersome due to the lack of direct flights.

We want nothing better than to see South African Airways have direct flights to India once again

The state capture commission heard last year how the Guptas had a hand in the closing down of the SAA route between Johannesburg and Mumbai in 2015.

Ramaphosa said SAA's loss of the Mumbai route "was part of how we lost our way".

"Our South African Airways is going through troubling times at the moment," he said. We want nothing better than to see South African Airways have direct flights to India once again."

He added: "If that is one of your dreams, we will fulfil it."

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan told the media in New Delhi that work would begin on reinstating the route.

"There was a direct route [and] it was stolen from SA," he said.

Gordhan acknowledged that despite interest by Indians in investing in SA and partnering with state-owned entities, there is cleaning up to do.

"We have to focus on getting SAA into shape and make sure it's profitable," he said.

Embattled state-owned power utility Eskom also came up as a matter of concern, with Indian companies worried about power security.

"We know that the inability of Eskom to deliver good electricity is a threat to the economy and I am sure it is a threat to your businesses, and it's also something that tends to turn those who want to invest in SA away," Ramaphosa said.

His visit to India was widely lauded by government and business leaders, who are optimistic about relations between the two emerging economies.

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