As far as North West education MEC Sello Lehari is concerned, the Gupta family never made any investments at schools in his province, despite the family listing this as a motivation for early naturalisation.
Lehari was on Wednesday testifying at a parliamentary inquiry into how the Gupta brothers, close friends of former president Jacob Zuma, as well as other relatives and associates of the family, obtained early citizenship via naturalisation in South Africa.
The family listed investments of R25 billion in South Africa as a motivation including investments at schools.
Lehari said the first they learned about the “alleged investments” at schools in North West was when parliament’s home affairs committee, which is conducting the inquiry, contacted them in May this year.
Lehari said that when his department investigated the 77 schools which were listed by the Guptas in their application for early naturalisation, officials could not verify the existence of one of these schools, while various others had not benefitted despite being listed as beneficiaries.
The MEC said proof that companies linked to the Gupta’s Oakbay group had interacted with school principals in 2013, without the department’s knowledge, was found. Lehari said the Guptas had “secretly gained access” to his province.
“They tricked unsuspecting school principals that their learners and schools were participating in a drawing competition.”
Schools were invited to enter into a competition to design a wedding card for the lavish Sun City wedding of the Gupta brothers’ niece.
The winning schools and learners were then given donations, which included cash prizes ranging from R1 000 to R15 000, as well as soccer cones, hula hoops, mini-soccer sets, and whistles.
“It emerged during the inquiry that what was received was not necessarily a donation, it was actually Oakbay giving a token of appreciation for designing the wedding card,” said Lehari.