The original GUPTA empire referred to as ‘The Golden Age” lasted about 200 hundred years (320-550CE) in Northern India and its demise came about from the invasion of the Huns.
Nearly two millennia later the 2nd GUPTA empire in South Africa and Dubai is destined to last for less than a couple of decades.
It may be more than a coincidence that the current Guptas (this generation or previous) may have taken the name of the more impressive empire that dominated India in the years before Christ.
The humble beginnings of the current Gupta empire by Atul selling shoes out of the boot of his car in the 1990’s, is less auspicious than what happened across India where the arts, science, literature, culture, architecture and learning were all promoted from the early beginnings of the real GUPTA empire.
From Sri Gupta, through many descendants ChadraGupta, KachaGupta, SamudraGupta, PuruGupta, KimaraGupta, BudhaGupta, NarsinhaGupta, KumaraGupta III, BudgaGupta, VainyaGupta, BhanuGupta and Maharajadiraja Sri ChandraGupta considered the first Gupta emperor, the history is somewhat (not surprisingly) rather vague.
Building an empire that lasted over 200 years is impressive by any standards. Certainly it is rather more significant than the current Gupta’s ‘state capture’ of South African state owned companies, but inevitable parallels can be drawn of opportunism and greed.
Identifying South Africa as a country where the relative lack of red tape (when compared to India) could provide greater opportunity for profits, the Gupta brothers moved from India to South Africa and embarked on an extraordinary journey to riches beyond their wildest dreams.
From a decrepit apartment block in Rani Bazar, Saharanpur nearly 200km north of Delhi the Gupta family have improved their living accommodation to 4 mansions in Saxonwold and palaces (known as L35) in Dubai.
Unlike well-heeled Indian families, who with the exception of the long gone Maharajahs, hide their wealth, in contrast there is a never ending ostentatious display of wealth by the Guptas, with huge over the top weddings in Sun City, (paid for by the taxpayer), cars, aeroplanes, and the inevitable security.
From a business perspective, where any ends shall justify the means, the audacious capture of government state owned enterprises is a story that is not only brazen in boldness but also reminiscent of storytelling in ‘Goodfellas’ and the ‘Godfather’.
But why bother with drugs and prostitution, when larger financial opportunities exist through receptive government servants both at national and local levels as well as in the government businesses they own?
From computer contracts (Sahara), train locomotives (Transnet), cranes (Transnet), mining (Optimum/Eskom/Tegeta/Trillian/Mckinsey), media (ANN7 and SABC), defence (Denel VR Laser) agriculture (Vrede dairy project), software (SAP), they have sucked in anyone that can assist their objectives of greed, including reputable independents such as KPMG. Dirty tricks campaigns designed to be divisive with fake news, new phrases such as ‘White Monopoly Capital’ from PR agents Bell Pottinger have added fuel to the fire in the pursuit of more capture. Fortunately not every project has succeeded with SAA (exclusive air routes to India) and ACSA (new runways at OR Thambo and Cape Town) yet to be concluded.
None of this could have happened without the cooperation of government ministers and executives in the highest positions of business.
The Gupta empire is an example of extraordinary energy chasing down every possible area that can lead to untold wealth, using every tool at their disposal including bribery and corruption, payments, incentives, travel, holidays, to entice and hoodwink the unsuspecting into the trap of enrichment. Once hooked escape is difficult if not impossible. Expose the treachery and expect to fall from grace and position, (as was seen in the Treasury).
Eskom is of course potentially the biggest prize in the pursuit of ill gotten gains. Coal has already been caught (Tegeta/Optimum) and potentially nuclear as well with Shiva uranium.
But empires as they grow are progressively difficult to sustain. They can fall quickly. Shoot outs as in the ‘OK Corrall’ or ‘Reservoir Dogs’ can flare up with the players all ending shooting each other. Ambition and power results in the players being deposed and replaced.
As with the Roman Empire the barbarians (The Huns), who brought down the longest surviving empire, also ended the Golden Age of the Gupta Empire.
Mafiosi cartels are normally brought down by something simpler like tax evasion, as per Al Capone.
What will be the trigger point for the demise of the current Gupta empire remains to be seen.
The email leaks are probably just the start. The Americans are now taking huge interest as US $ were used for transactions and money laundering, or setting up companies and bank accounts for Eskom executives and so on, along with email servers based in the USA.
As all the Ubersolar articles in this Facebook page are all linked to in one way or another to renewables, it is perhaps ironic that India has embarked on a huge roll out of both large utility scale solar PV and wind power and solar water heaters. In contrast in South Africa all the renewable energy projects have stalled in preference for more coal and nuclear. The Gupta influence in indisputable as one of their pawns, the disgraced ex CEO of Eskom Mr Molefe, strongly stated his dislike for clean energy and had refused to engage 37 REIPPP projects.
If the Gupta family had been interested in clean energy, the South African renewable picture would probably look very different today.
For the citizens of South Africa the Gupta Empire of the 21st century is a tragedy.
The drama unfolds daily, to the astonishment of all, and unlike the benefits of greater education and learning that was prevalent in the real Gupta empire, the cost of the country being captured will reverberate for many years to come. As in India the influence of one family will probably change the political landscape in South Africa forever.
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