South Africa: Guptas’ arrest comes at a welcome moment for President Ramaphosa

By The Africa Report, with Reuters
Posted on Tuesday, 7 June 2022 11:58

South Africa's President gestures during his response to oral questions in the National Assembly, in Cape Town
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa in the National Assembly, at the Good Hope Chambers in Cape Town, South Africa, March 17, 2022. Elmond Jiyane/GCIS/Handout via REUTERS

The timing of the arrest of the Gupta brothers - linked to the era of state pillage under former South African president Jacob Zuma - could not have been better for President Cyril Ramaphosa

South Africa said on Monday the UAE had arrested Rajesh Gupta and Atul Gupta, brothers who face charges of political corruption

Confirming South Africa’s statement on Tuesday, Dubai police said on Twitter that it had coordinated with South African authorities “regarding the extradition file to complete the legal procedures”.

South Africa’s Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services said on Monday there were discussions between various law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa “on the way forward”. The two nations agreed an extradition treaty last year.

The arrests come at a welcome moment for Ramaphosa, under fire for ‘improper’ amounts of cash stolen from a farm of his in 2020.

The Gupta brothers are accused of using connections with Zuma, who ruled from 2009 to 2018, to win contracts, misappropriate state assets, influence cabinet appointments and siphon off state funds. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing.

Dangerous turn

The possible trial of the Guptas could be a cathartic but dangerously diversionary moment for the ruling ANC and SA – it could be held up as purging of the corrupt body politic but will really be a way of blaming outsiders for internal weaknesses.

The Indian-born brothers left South Africa after Zuma was ousted in 2018. An inquiry was established in 2018 to examine allegations of graft during Zuma’s years in power.

The UAE ratified an extradition treaty with South Africa in April 2021, a move that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government hoped would lead to the return of the Guptas to face charges.

The UAE may be tempted towards extradition because it can distance itself from the saga.

A Gupta trial would take up a lot of political oxygen in South Africa. Some believe that they are likely to cooperate with prosecutors about Zuma and his allies in exchange for a lighter sentence

South Africa’s largest opposition party welcomed the arrests.

“We hope that this is indeed the beginning of arrests and prosecution of those who have – locally and abroad – looted our country for years and are directly responsible for the hardships that millions of South Africans face today,” the Democratic Alliance said in a statement.

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