The Gupta family has, up to now, been regarded as one of determined ambition, of being prepared to twist and turn people to their will, all in the name of accumulating vast wealth.
Even though much of that wealth has come from the taxpayer, the family has taken on an almost comical appearance in common life, almost caricatures of grasping shopkeepers.
But yesterday, all that changed, with the ominous evidence given to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture by former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas. He told the probe he was offered R600 million by the Gupta family to take over as finance minister and to purge Treasury and other finance departments of people who stood in the way of the looting.
The Guptas told him they had already made R6 billion out of deals with the government and parastatals – but they needed him to facilitate a further R2 billion.
Jonas was offered R600 000 as a down payment, in cash. But when he refused and left, Ajay Gupta allegedly threatened to kill him.
That has taken theft and corruption to the level of what one former Gupta employee described to us as a “Mafia operation”… where the end (venal grabbing of wealth) justified the means (intimidation, burglary, phone tapping and, ultimately, threats to kill).
Clearly, there was a lot at stake and the family appeared to be ready to defend the goose which was laying golden eggs for them.
The evidence of Jonas and of the former employee – who told us he was willing to also testify to the Zondo commission – is confirmation that state capture was an evil system and network.
Those who were involved should be punished to the full extent of the law.
More importantly, though, it must never be allowed to happen again.