JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A member of South Africa’s wealthy Gupta family on Wednesday denied allegations of undue political influence, including offering cabinet positions, in its first public comment on charges that have plagued President Jacob Zuma’s time in office.
The family’s relationship with the scandal-troubled Zuma has been under question for years and several South African firms, including all four major banks, have cut links with companies associated with them.
But though the allegations of “state capture” against the Guptas have added to investor concerns about governance and stability in Africa’s most industrialized country Zuma has managed to keep the support of his African National Congress and ward off calls for his resignation.
Ajay Gupta, one of three brothers who moved to South Africa from India at the end of apartheid in the early 1990s and now head a business empire that stretches from technology to media and mining, said his friendship with Zuma was above board.
“I am not a lobbyist. I am not a state capturer. As far as I am concerned, I am a friend only,” he said in an interview on state-owned broadcaster SABC.
“Capture is when you are taking any advantage of anything.”
Zuma in December changed finance ministers twice in a week, alarming investors and triggering financial turmoil.
Ajay Gupta denied receiving any political favors and also denied an allegation by a deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas, that the Guptas had offered him the job of finance minister.
He said he had never met Jonas. “I can say I have never seen him in my life,” he said. Though he had met cabinet ministers many times at business functions, his relationships with government officials were above board.
Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Richard Balmforth