The Guptas may sink Zuma as scandal widens

The Gupta family may be the most powerful family in South Africa in the President Jacob Zuma era, as more senior South African public figures came out on Friday to accuse the business family of exerting undue influence.

Zola Tsotsi, who resigned as chairman of state utility, Eskom, a year ago, told local newspaper the Mail & Guardian that his exit was plotted by the Guptas.

“Two months after the appointment they called me and said they will have me fired because I am not playing the game. I was forced to resign shortly after that,” Tsotsi said.

The family of Indian-born businessmen, who moved to South Africa at the end of apartheid in 1993, was this week accused of offering cabinet posts to two members of the ruling African National Congress ANC politicians.

Deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas also claimed he had been offered the finance minister job last year, shortly before Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene.

In response to Jonas’s statement, a Gupta family spokesperson said: “These latest allegations are just more political point scoring between rival factions within the ANC. To be clear: any suggestion that the Gupta family or any of our representatives or associates have offered anyone a job in government is totally false.

“We challenge Minister Jonas to provide a full account of the supposed meeting that took place, under oath, in a court of law. Minister Jonas is attempting to cover up and divert attention away from his own relationships and practices. We are confident questions about his own ethical standards will be exposed,” the spokesman said in a statement signed by Oakbay Investments, the Gupta family’s investment vehicle.

The statement added, however, that no further reaction would be made to the issue at hand which the Gupta family regards a “politically-motivated campaign” against it.

To many in Africa’s most advanced economy, the Guptas run South Africa with Zuma, whose son Duduzane Zuma sits on the boards of at least six Gupta companies. The Guptas’s companies have also employed the president’s daughter and one of his wives.

The scandal is coming at a time the ANC faces strong competition from the opposition in the upcoming local elections. Already, the country’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has written to the country’s Public Protector, requesting an investigation into abuse of power by President Jacob Zuma.

The ANC also started a meeting Friday where a decision will be reached on whether to replace President Zuma, following a widening political scandal engulfing his administration.