The number of corruption scandals dogging South African president Jacob Zuma is legendary. The worst so far involves his relationship with the Gupta brothers, an Indian family that immigrated to South Africa in 1993. Taking advantage of South Africa’s legendary lack of “red tape” (i.e. corporate regulation), the Gupta’s quickly leveraged their small computer business into a multimillion dollar enterprise. As well as computers, they have interests in mining, air travel, energy, technology and media.
The generous favors they lavished on Zuma and his family has bought them an unprecedented level of influence over the South African government, including lucrative government contracts. It is not clear how much money, if any, the Guptas have donated to the governing party because political parties are not obliged to disclose donations from private sources.
In March 2016, popular anger over “state capture” by the Gupta family erupted into widespread popular. The Guptas responded by hiring British PR firm Bell Pottinger to counteract growing public perception that South Africa was a shadow state run by the Gupta family. The latter attempted to salvage the reputations of the Gupta and Zuma families by portraying them as victims of a racist backlash by “white monopoly capital.”
A recent cache of leaked Gupta emails reveal that Bell Pottinger approached this task by trying to stoke a full blown race war in South Africa. In addition to using social media to promote anger against “white monopoly capitalists,” they wrote speeches for Zuma’s son; created a Black First Land First campaign (similar to Mugabe’s historic campaign ousting white farmers from their in Zimbabwe) for the ANC Youth League directed; launched Twitter campaigns against journalists who tried to publicize corrupt ties between Zuma and the Gutpas; and helped organize a Black First Land First protest at a white journalist’s home.
Following a leaked report earlier this year, the ensuing uproar led Bell Pottinger to drop the Guptas as clients and sack the partner responsible for the campaign.
Zuma faces a no confidence vote (which could force him to step down) in Parliament on August 8: