Last kicks of a dying Gupta empire reek of desperation before the fall

27 August 2017 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

Mzwanele Manyi would have us all believe that his acquisition of The New Age newspaper and ANN7 television station from the Guptas is a great victory for media diversity and economic transformation in the country.
The self-appointed apostle of black economic empowerment and his supporters have labelled everyone who questions his R450-million deal with the controversial friends of President Jacob Zuma as "jealous" or motivated by racial prejudice.
Yet there is every reason to be suspicious of this transaction - as well as the R2.9-billion sale of Tegeta Exploration and Resources by the family to a little-known company said to be based in Switzerland.
Without doubt, there is a need for further diversification of local media both in terms of ownership and content. The more voices there are in the media space, the healthier our democracy would be.But one positive thing that those concerned with the Guptas' undue influence over the state can take from these latest developments is that the family and their associates are feeling the pressure.
Whatever the motive for these transactions, one thing is clear: even they recognise that the game is nearly over for them.
Their friend Zuma may be stalling with regard to appointing a judicial commission to investigate state capture, but he cannot hold that off forever. Soon he'll be compelled to appoint the commission, if not by the courts, then certainly by his party.
His tenure as ANC president comes to an end in December and from then on, even if the next party leader is someone he backs, there is no guarantee that new leader would have the appetite to keep Zuma in the Union Buildings until mid-2019.
The Guptas are keenly aware that a change of president would most likely mean they will lose the political protection they enjoy.
Off-loading the assets, therefore, would make it easier for them to leave the country at the slightest smell of trouble. Whether they leave or stay, Manyi and other Gupta cheerleaders will still have to answer for their role in helping the family turn our republic into their fiefdom.

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