Gupta link mystery deepens
Published on August 15, 2014 · No Comments
Brothers denied SA diplomatic passports prior to Lesotho connection
MASERU – Despite confirmation from the prime minister’s office that government has engaged foreign special advisors to market the country abroad, the initiative appears to be a closely guarded secret – with senior government officials professing ignorance on the matter.
Weekend media reports revealed the Prime Minister, Motsoahae Thabane, had roped in three foreigners of Indian decent as special advisors, and that the trio had already been issued with Lesotho’s diplomatic passports.
The prime minister’s press secretary, Thabo Thakalekoala, was quoted confirming the developments though he was not in a position to divulge the names of the three.
Reports, however, suggested prominent Gupta family member Atul Kumar Gupta would be part of the team Thabane put up.
The Gupta family, based in South Africa, has a super-rich business empire that ranges from mining to computer giants Sahara Holdings.
They are known for always being on the wrong side of the law, which they do with impunity because of their political connections.
Enquiries have revealed that in 2012 the Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul and Tony, demanded that the South African Department of International Relations issue them with diplomatic passports, being one of the numerous outrageous demands the Guptas have made on the South African government of President Jacob Zuma.
The request was rejected by the department, only for one of the brothers to surface in Lesotho with government confirming issuance of the same passport the South African government denied him.
Contacted to shed light on these developments, to furnish the names of the advisors and outline their terms of reference on Wednesday the Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka said he was not aware of the matter as it has not yet been brought to his attention.
“I totally do not know anything about the foreigners that have been given such an assignment and diplomatic passports,” Mphaka said.
Thakalekoala also could not give the names and scope of work of the three men, referring Public Eye to the prime minister’s political advisor Samonyane Ntsekele. Ntsekele declined to comment insisting he still had to consult and verify.
“It is not the first time I am hearing of this and I will check to verify the information now that I am being approached by the media on this issue,” he said.
The Guptas arrived in South Africa in 1993 and became a household name in 2013 when, without official authorisation, they landed a chartered jet carrying 200 wedding guests at South African Waterkloof Air Force Base, a national security area.
The family has high-profile and politically connected business interests and is loathed by many South Africans.
It is reported the family wields power, often commands South African cabinet ministers and senior state officials to their heavily guarded family estate in Johannesburg’s affluent Saxonwold, and has close ties with President Jacob Zuma and this has consequently raised grouses from some of the ANC members and its alliance partners.
Zuma’s special connections with the family has apparently provoked Durban-based advocate Kessie Naidu, who has known Zuma since 1988, to pen an open letter demanding the president break his ties with the Guptas.
“Remove from your midst these vile sycophants and praise-singing opportunists who, like a cancerous sore, have the potential to spread throughout the portals of power. Discourage this cronyism that is threatening the very fabric of our society. Take the lead,” Naidu advised the South African president.
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