25 October 2019
Today, we are gathering at 1 Saxonwold Drive in Johannesburg, outside a massive plot of land that has come to be known as the ‘Gupta compound’.
This property, which has been the source of much controversy in our country, carries the name ‘Sahara’ on its walls, a reminder of the family who until recently, lived within it, but have now moved to Dubai.
While the Guptas may have relocated, the monolith which occupies 1 Saxonwold Drive, as well as the crises that plagues our cash strapped state owned entities, is a daily reminder of what they have left behind. In an almost ‘colonial’ fashion, the Guptas have, after years of extracting wealth from this country – in ways that various reports have indicated are irregular, hastily packed up and moved on.
And, from the plush wedding that they held earlier this year in the Himalayas, they seemingly still have large caches of cash at hand.
While the Guptas have re-established themselves in Dubai, our country has yet to find its footing. Having had their greedy fingers in everything from Eskom, to Transnet, Denel, and a dairy farm in Vrede, the mess that they have left us, is yet to be cleared.
Their tinkering with SAA, their abuse of a national key point for landing wedding guests at Waterkloof, their racialised spin doctoring with Bell Pottinger and their operations at the New Age and ANN7, still leave us with a bitter aftertaste.
But what angers us the most, is how this family is reported to have usurped our democratic processes, allegedly offering cabinet posts to people – something which is only the prerogative of a democratically elected president.
In fact, this household – which at some point became infamously known as the ‘Saxonwold Shebeen’ through one Brian Molefe – was, in an apparent hoax, briefly listed as the ‘South African Presidency’ on Google Maps.
This structure and its occupants have symbolically come to represent state capture in South Africa.
Our picket here though, is more than just a symbolic show of our continued outrage about the ‘shadow state’ operations that this family has been implicated in.
We are here today, to call on the South African government and our law enforcement agencies to bring back the Guptas and make them pay!
Just recently, the United States imposed sanctions on the Guptas and their ‘henchman’, Salim Essa. The public has been informed that similar action is being discussed with seven other countries. Just this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa urged patience with regards to the matter.
However, we believe that while legal processes are important, justice should not be delayed where sufficient evidence exists to prosecute.
To this end, we call on the South African government to conclude its mutual legal assistance agreements with these countries, and to extradite the Guptas. We are furthermore calling on the NPA to begin the process of prosecution and work closely with other South African law enforcement agencies, as well as the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, to bring the Guptas to book.
The timing of our picket here today is not coincidental. It comes at the eve of the Hindu celebration of Diwali, or the ‘Festival of Lights’. The story of Diwali is one that speaks of the triumph of good over evil and of justice over injustice.
The Gupta family would regularly host Diwali celebrations, where they would invite and court the company of politicians, amongst them former Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, under whom the Guptas were granted early citizenship.
The picket also follows a similar demonstration by Johannesburg Against Injustice in 2017 at a religious gathering hosted by the Guptas near their home. The organisation at the time indicated that while it respected the Guptas’ right to practice religion, their display of greed came into stark contrast with the basic values of the religious gathering itself.
Our protest here today is not against Diwali or the celebration of it. It is to highlight the very values that Diwali inculcates, which the Guptas have perverted over the years. It is to reclaim a celebration, one that is dear to millions across the globe, and to very practically call for its essence – the triumph of justice over injustice – to be exercised in relation to this family.
Diwali is celebrated with the display of fireworks, lamps, and lights. In a very real way, the Guptas, though their deals with Eskom, have in some part contributed to our lights being put out. We are saying here today, that even though the Guptas have contributed to taking our ‘lights’, we will not allow them to take our figurative ‘light’ as a country.
We will not accept the arguments of those who are trying to portray us as being anti-Hindu because of the timing of the protest. We have made it clear that this is a picket against the Guptas, and not against any religious occasion.
We will also not be intimidated by the individuals who have sent us messages denigrating this picket, and unashamedly trying to protect the interests of the Guptas, who have done little, but to bring pain and instability to our country.
We will stand firm in our demand that the Guptas be brought back here, to face the full might of the law!
This statement is endorsed by:
Active Citizens Movement
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
Johannesburg Against Injustice
For media inquiries contact Peggy Pillay on 082 776 6385 or Neeshan Balton on 082 373 1143.