The Guptas sought to buy the Mail & Guardian, a newspaper the family and their associates saw as being hostile to President Jacob Zuma, the Gupta emails show. The Mail & Guardian reported that the project was codenamed Project M.
In January 2016, Nazeem Howa, then CEO of Gupta business Oakbay Investments, reportedly wrote: "I would recommend that it is bought with a vehicle separate from us as that would mitigate some of our risks of shedding readers."
Howa went on to describe how the M&G was considered critical of Zuma.
"The newspaper (with strong support from their following and other like-minded media people) is champion a [sic] position that President Zuma is corrupt and should be relieved of his responsibility. They have made it their focus to find ways to support the #ZumaMustFall campaign and the family and our group have become convenience pawns [sic] in their strategy to unseat the president."
Howa wrote that the M&G had lost 40% of its government advertising spend since 2013 and said that "editorial position has certainly been a factor in this decline".
"... and one would question how quickly one can reclaim the lost government advertising spend, and how much of an editorial positioning change will be needed to change that," Howa reportedly wrote.
He added: "A risk of repositioning could well be the loss of single-copy readers who subscribe to the newspapers current anti-establishment position. Repositioning will have to bring new readers faster than the changes cause loss of readers."
Howa and the Guptas could not be reached for comment by the M&G.