Controversial family linked to Zuma leaves South Africa

Family has come under intense scrutiny over their alleged meddling in the country’s politics.

Atul Gupta
Reports suggest the family left South Africa on a private jet on Thursday [AP]

A South African opposition party has welcomed the reported departure of a wealthy business family, which is accused of having an undue influence over South African President Jacob Zuma.

The Economic Freedom Fighters party has been leading a campaign for the Gupta family to leave the country, repeatedly bringing up the issue in parliament, and making accusations that there is a corrupt relationship between the family and the South African president.  

The family has come under intense scrutiny over the past few weeks over their alleged meddling in the country’s politics and excessive influence over the president.

Last month, Zuma was forced to clarify his relationship with the Guptas after Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said he was offered a ministerial post by the family, which is known for its vast business empire that includes mining, media and engineering.

Reacting to a report in Sunday’s City Press newspaper that the Gupta family had left for Dubai on Thursday, EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told Al Jazeera that the party would not rest until Zuma himself stepped down

“Zuma is the head of the snake and he has to be removed. The Guptas leaving doesn’t mean we are leaving. We are coming for him and all other corrupt politicians,” Ndlozi said.

“If we remove Zuma, it will send a strong message of what democracy can do to corruption.”

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Zuma, who has been pressured over accusations he used state funds to upgrade his home, has repeatedly denied the allegations that the Gupta family had any political power. 

Last week, Zuma survived an impeachment vote in parliament that was launched after the highest court in South Africa ruled that he had ignored an order to repay state funds spent on his private residence.

Political analyst Ebrahim Fakir told Al Jazeera that members of the Gupta family believed they got caught up in a political struggle, and were scapegoated.

“The Guptas leaving is a narrow and very small victory … it doesn’t solve anything,” Fakir said.  

Zuma has faced a barrage of criticism over his relationship with the Gupta family and Fakir says that while the criticism may have been warranted, the nature in which the Guptas were “hounded out”, sets a bad precedent.

“It simply allows the next businessman to fill the space left by the Guptas and then we will look for the next victim. This won’t solve the problems facing this country,” he said.

News of the family’s departure from the country came after they released a statement on Friday, saying they were stepping down from the leadership of Oakbay Investments, in a move linked to the closure of the firm’s accounts by two major banks.

“It is with deep regret that, following a period of sustained political attack on the Gupta family and our businesses … we have come to the conclusion that it is time for the Gupta family to step down from all executive and non-executive positions,” the letter said.

The Guptas said that several banks and auditors refused to work with them following the critical campaigns launched by the press.

The closure of the bank accounts had made it “virtually impossible to continue to do business in South Africa”, the letter said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies