South Africa 10.9.2018 06:00 pm

How much truth is there in Mandela and Mbeki also being Gupta buddies?

Ajay and Atul Gupta. File photo

Ajay and Atul Gupta. File photo

Social media posts regularly attempt to draw connections between the Guptas and former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

A tweet that has been widely shared over the past few days once again makes the long-running allegation that the Guptas were friendly with both Mandela and Mbeki.

Some use these alleged connections to make the point that Zuma has supposedly been treated unfairly, as the tweet claims that while the Guptas “donated to many organised events” and “had many business partners” under Mandela and Mbeki, it was only their connection to Zuma that has been critically probed.

However, the Mandela-Gupta “links” are almost certainly false.

One photograph showing Mandela alongside Cyril Ramaphosa signing the constitution in 1996 features a man highlighted by way of a crude, yellow arrow. The man is alleged to be a member of the Gupta family.

However, the man in the picture is Yunus Chamda, who was then the Vaal mayor. He is Indian, but not a Gupta.

The mistaking of Chamda for one of the Gupta brothers has been debunked several times, including in this blog post, and in tweets from a Twitter account that appears to belong to Chamda himself.

The Mbeki connection is less tenuous, but Mbeki himself once slammed the suggestions in Peter-Louis Myburgh’s book The Republic of Gupta that he was closely connected to the family as fake news.

A detailed report on the rise of the Guptas on Bloomberg alleged Atul Gupta was exposed to South Africa’s political and business elite for the first time when he was part of a delegation that accompanied Mbeki on a trip to India.

The article names Essop Pahad as the politician who extended the influence of the Gupta family by introducing them to important people. Pahad was a minister in Mbeki’s presidency and a close ally of the former president.

It alleges that, thanks to Pahad, Ajay accompanied Mbeki on a trip to Mali in a private jet, with the purpose of protecting a library of ancient documents called the Timbuktu manuscripts. Pahad also got Ajay on to the board of a prestigious group of business leaders, the International Marketing Council.

However, none of this directly links Mbeki to the Guptas.

READ MORE: Mbeki foundation slams ANCWL over Gupta ‘lies’

Ajay has also said he was part of a panel of economic advisers to Mbeki, a claim the former president has denied.

Vytjie Mentor once alleged that it is Pahad who can be considered the “missing link” in understanding how the Guptas ultimately came to be so close to Jacob Zuma.

The family has been in South Africa since before Mandela was elected president in 1994.

The DA made some Gupta-links news of its own in 2013 after Helen Zille admitted to having received a donation from the family. A photo shows Zille, who was mayor of Cape Town at the time, at an event with Ajay. She says the family were not yet notorious at the time of both the donation and the pic.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane has since claimed the party paid back their R400,000 donation in a bid to distance themselves from the family.

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