These were the sober and emotional words from the embattled Guptas brother. “I wanted to stay in South Africa forever. I love this country. I’m proudly South African‚” he said in the latest instalment of a series of interviews broadcast on Thursday by the BBC’s Radio 4.
His comments were aired on the same day that treason and racketeering charges were levelled against President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane and the Gupta family‚ who are embroiled in a deepening scandal – laid bare in an explosive cache of leaked e-mails.
Gupta brushed aside allegations of his family being involved in bribery‚ influencing government ministers and having unduly benefitted from lucrative parastatal contracts.
“We don’t know why our name is being dragged in these things‚” he told the radio station.
He denied the family had ever offered deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas R600-million in exchange for bringing business deals to the Gupta family.
Jonas‚ in an affidavit penned earlier‚ described meeting the family.
“Mr Gupta indicated to me that ‘we’ – I understood clearly‚ the Gupta family and its interests – had been gathering intelligence on me including those closest to me‚ they were aware of my activities and connections with senior members of the African National Congress‚ they are going to make me the Minister of Finance.”
Atul Gupta was at pains to convey to the BBC his opinion on why the family was in the spotlight.
He attributed the backlash they faced to the way they had disrupted established businesses in South Africa. He cited “monopoly capital” as not wanting competition.
“This is a few families … controlling this country. They do not want any newcomers‚” he said.
Asked if he felt guilty about the looming motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma — partly due to allegations around the Gupta family — he objected to the question: “Political matter‚ nothing to do with us‚ we are a simple business family.”
He sounded surprised when told that deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa had openly spoken about his family using resources that rightfully belonged to the people of South Africa.
“He’s been‚ I think‚ misinformed about this. This is not true. I’m happy to cooperate (with) any credible probe‚” he added.
Asked if he thought the Gupta family had a future in South Africa‚ if Zuma lost the motion of no confidence‚ he replied: “This is again an immaterial question. I wanted to stay in South Africa forever. I love this country. I’m proudly South African and I respect all my fellow South Africans.
“I’m a live (sic) example of financial liberation and I’m playing my part and I’m doing a very‚ very … ethical job.”