S Africa outcry over Zuma's ties with Indian-origin biz barons

S Africa outcry over Zuma's ties with Indian-origin biz barons
 An influential Indian-origin family of business tycoons is at the centre of a political storm in South Africa over its ties with President Jacob Zuma, two years after a lavish wedding in the family had led to a similar uproar.

The Gupta brothers - Ajay, Atul and Rajesh - have been criticised for allegedly using their close business relations with Zuma and wielding undue influence to swing large corporate deals in sectors such as IT, mines, engineering and media.

The family which hails from Saharanpur in UP and controls a slew of South African companies has denied the allegations and challenged anyone to prove them.

But last week the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party led by its firebrand leader Julius Malema, Zuma's former ally, targeted the Guptas threatening that the family would be "driven back to India" from where they came over 20 years ago and built a business empire in South Africa.

"We declare war against the Guptas and their businesses and when we declare war we fight to the bitter end," SABC News quoted Malema as saying.

Malema's actions are seen as political tactics with local body elections looming but they have caused consternation about the possible xenophobic impact on the local Indian community, especially in KwaZulu-Natal province, home to over a third of South Africans of Indian origin.

The statements by Malema and the EFF have been unanimously condemned across the board by politicians, commentators and the media here but that has not deterred the party and its leader from reiterating the threats.

"We cannot allow a situation where South Africa is colonised by a family," he said, according to media reports.

"We will do to the Guptas what we did to the colonisers and apartheid," he said adding, "It has reached levels where we will no longer tolerate it anymore".

Yesterday, the Gupta family initiated legal action against the party saying that Malema's statements amounted to incitement to violence. This came after the EFF leadership said that it could not guarantee the safety of journalists employed by a newspaper and TV channel - both owned by the Guptas - if they tried to cover events of the party.

Previously in 2013, a lavish wedding in the family billed as "the wedding of the century" had been ridiculed after a private jet with guests on board was allowed to land at a restricted air force base near Pretoria, normally used to receive heads of state.

The wedding party were not subjected to immigration checks and were provided with police escorts to the marriage at a resort over 150 kilometres away that was also attended by Bollywood stars and politicians. The week-long event further fuelled public anger and media criticism of the Guptas.
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