POLITICS

The Bombshell Gupta Emails: Here Is All You Need To Know

Too many “Gupta emails” to keep up? Here’s all you need to know right now. We will keep you updated as further emails emerge.  

31/05/2017 15:08 SAST | Updated 31/05/2017 15:29 SAST
Martin Rhodes/Business Day/Gallo Images

The release of the "Gupta emails" is shaping into a document leak as significant as the Snowden Files and the Panama Papers.

The emails, which are in the public domain, appear to be a small sample of the massive total available and are likely to be placed on a foreign server.

The U.S. was rocked when the National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, Edward Snowden, leaked bombshell details of the country's spy cables.

These were followed by the Panama Papers, a stash of 11.5 million leaked documents related to 214,488 offshore accounts and other entities.

Now the so-called Gupta emails are causing ripples across South Africa as they lay bare the extent of the family's influence and control over the state and state-owned enterprises.

"They provide the fine-grain details of what we don't know," says Ivor Chipkin executive director of the Public Affairs Research Institute, which is part of the State Capacity Research Group.

This group last week released an academic study on the meaning and impact of state capture.

"The emails suggest the day-to-day work of government has moved to a shadowy network. If true, they reveal the handing over of government functions to these networks. The emails are of huge historical and political significance. It suggests the ANC is effectively not in power and that several ministers have deferred their powers," Chipkin.

Here's everything we know about the emails.

1. Zuma wants to go to Dubai

A draft letter written by Sahara Computers's chief executive Ashu Chawla on behalf of President Jacob Zuma to an Abu Dhabi royal enquiring about President Jacob Zuma taking up residency in the United Arab Emirates. [Link to Sunday Times or City Press]

2.Have friends, will travel

Matshela Koko, the Eskom executive who was intimately involved in facilitating the Guptas' Optimum coal deal, was flown to Dubai and put up in the plush Oberoi Hotel for a meeting in the suburb where the Guptas have a R445-million mansion. This was at the time that the Guptas' Oakbay Investments was negotiating the Optimum deal.

3.The gun runner

Dan Mantsha, board chairperson of state arms manufacturer Denel, was also treated to first-class treatment in Dubai by the Guptas ahead of Denel going into business with the family-linked company called VR Laser in a joint venture called VR Laser Asia. Like Koko, he was received by the Oberoi Hotel and chauffeured to the Guptas' mansion.

4. The new Randlords

Mosebenzi Zwane, the little-known former provincial official elevated to minister of mineral resources in 2015, was hand-picked for his job by the Gupta family the emails reveal. His CV was circulated in the family's networks months before his appointment by Zuma.

Soon after his appointment, he flew with the Guptas to Switzerland, lending government's support to their efforts to buy Optimum from Glencore, stayed in the Oberoi Hotel and visited the mansion. He was also rolled out by the Guptas as the star attraction of an exclusive dinner they hosted during the Mining Indaba in 2016.

5. Spinning

The Gupta network isn't stupid. They have anticipated every media question and every issue that might arise from the growing pains of their ever-expanding empire. Former Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa explained to Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zuma that Zwane -- who provided the ruse under which the infamous Waterkloof Air Force Base landings took place -- should be coached on what to say if he was asked about it.

Howa also offered coaching to the family cheerleader and African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) president Collen Maine. Maine home is bonded by the family, according to a City Press report by the investigation's team amaBhungane.

6. Keeping Faith

Faith Muthambi, minister of public service and administration and previously minister of communications and senior MP, kept the Guptas in the loop when they tried to help her expand her executive powers. She also sent the Guptas confidential information about Cabinet meetings related to the powers of the independent communications regulator, Icasa, and about signal distribution powers. The family applied for a free to air television licence which fell under Icasa's authority.

7. Weekend special goes on a trip

Des van Rooyen, who was supposed to be the Guptas' man at Treasury before he was replaced by Pravin Gordhan, also made the sponsored Dubai pilgrimage, like Koko, Zwane and Mantsha. He was driven around in a Jaguar XJ L. The minister has previously said he paid for the trip himself and went on a short jaunt because of his personal budget strains.

8. Oros takes questions

Maine, the firebrand leader of the ANCYL and a stoic Gupta apologist, was coached by Nazeem Howa, Oakbay's chief executive, on how to respond to media queries.

9. Asking for a friend

Rajesh Naithani, an Indian national with no apparent expertise in the airline industry, was appointed to the board of SAA (while Malusi Gigaba was minister of public enterprises). He was later shifted to the board of SA Express. In between that he enquired from Tony Gupta about any available positions on the board of Transnet. He also provided the Guptas with inside information about happenings on the board of SAA.

10. The ultimate spin-doctors

British firm Bell Pottinger concocted a campaign against former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas after he refused a bribe of R600 million from the family. They were simply going to issue a media statement saying Jonas had received the money from Hamza Farooqi, a partner of Gupta associate Salim Essa in Vardospan, which was the company which wanted to buy Habib Bank, The Times reported.

11. The president's son

Duduzane Zuma engaged Bell Pottinger to help him with a campaign to deflect criticism of his father. It was supposed to be centred around "#EconomicEmancipation or whatever it is".

12. The man on the inside

Thamsanqa Msomi, a member of Denel's board and former adviser to Gigaba and his chief of staff at public enterprises, admitted to assisting the Guptas when they had issues at the department of home affairs. He instructed junior officials to help the family and to liaise with embassies on their behalf.

13. Showing them the money

The massive contracts doled out by the department of social development to enable the payment of social grants seemed to have been a problem for some, but not for the Guptas. They tried to buy Grindrod Bank, which facilitates the payments. "The publicity ... became a hurdle for Bidvest, but not necessarily the case for us."

14. All roads lead to Dubai

The Guptas facilitated the purchase of an apartment of nearly R18 million in the swanky Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai. The acquisition two years ago was facilitated by the Guptas' Oakbay and financed through the Zuma-Gupta venture Wens Holdings.

15. Friends forever

Indian businessperson Pramal Lodha, who has been arrested in his home country for money laundering, travelled with the Guptas and Zwane to Switzerland when they tried to score the Optimum deal.

16. Waterkloof revisited

Bruce Kholoane, the government official and fall-guy for the Guptas' Waterkloof landing in 2013, asked a director of several Gupta owned companies for help in sponsoring a golf day in honour of his wife. "Support whatever he wants," Ashu Chawla to his subordinates.

17. African gold

Ben Ngubane, Eskom chairperson, Salim Essa, a known Gupta associate and director in several of their companies, as well as previous government spokesperson Luphumzo Kebeni was involved in trying to negotiate a lucrative oil and gas contract in the Central African Republic. Their company was considering paying money to local officials to try and secure exploration rights.