South Africa’s Gupta family, the controversial business dynasty linked to President Jacob Zuma, will sell their shareholdings in all their businesses in the country by the end of the year, the family said in a statement on Saturday.
The move will cut the family’s ties to a multibillion-rand mining-to-media empire which according to critics benefited from a string of politically-connected deals.
“As a family, we now believe that the time is right for us to exit our shareholding of the South African businesses which we believe will benefit our existing employees, and lead to further growth in the businesses,” the Guptas said in the statement.
“We believe that this decision is in the best interests of our business, the country and our colleagues,” added the family, which moved to South Africa from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh over two decades ago.
The exit will affect the Guptas’ interests in Oakbay Investments, a holding vehicle for their empire, which includes Tegeta, a mining company in which Mr Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma was a major shareholder.
Tegeta this year acquired Optimum, the lossmaking coal mine placed into business rescue by Glencore after a dispute with the state power utility, Eskom, over supply contracts. The deal closed in April.
The Guptas said that they were “already in discussions with several prospective international buyers” for their shareholdings.
The family has been dogged by allegations — which have never been proven — that they used relationships with Mr Zuma and his relatives to obtain valuable state contracts for their businesses and influence the appointments of government ministers.
Mr Zuma and the Guptas have always denied the allegations against them.
Citing a “sustained political attack” on them, the Guptas withdrew from executive roles at their companies in April, alongside Duduzane Zuma who said he would exit investments. In the same month KPMG, Oakbay’s auditor, and several of South Africa’s banks moved to end relationships with the company.
Mcebisi Jonas, South Africa’s deputy finance minister, said in March that members of the family had offered him the Treasury’s top job before a crisis last December when Mr Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and replaced him with an unknown backbencher, causing turmoil in the rand.
This week the Guptas were also linked in South Africa’s media to a political storm surrounding the current finance minister, Pravin Gordhan. Police are investigating an alleged spying operation at South Africa’s tax office when Mr Gordhan was in charge.
On Friday South Africa’s News24 reported that Mr Gordhan told his staff that the Guptas were attacking him.
Amid a sharp sell-off in the rand this week on news of the investigation, Mr Gordhan did not comply with a police request for him to appear at the headquarters of the Hawks, an investigative agency of the police, to receive a warning statement regarding his rights.
In an earlier statement on Saturday the Guptas commented on the reports regarding Mr Gordhan, registering their “deep disappointment” and adding that they had “repeatedly pointed out that our family has been a victim of a political campaign against it.”
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