JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Villain or scapegoat? A wealthy business family in South Africa that has been criticized for allegedly improper links to President Jacob Zuma is trying to change the negative narrative.
In a two-page spread Friday in a newspaper that it owns, the Gupta family denied it is corrupt but did not directly address accusations that it tried to boost business by influencing some of Zuma's choices for Cabinet posts, even allegedly offering the finance minister's job to an official.
The allegations against the Guptas have fed into wider worries about corruption in South Africa, stirring debate about whether Zuma can ride out the scandal or will face increasing calls to resign as the government struggles to attract investment.
"As the global economic slowdown began to bite, the family became the scapegoat for every calamity and misfortune that South Africa has faced," the Guptas said in The New Age newspaper.
The Indian immigrant family said Atul Gupta, who chairs holding company Oakbay Investments with his brother Ajay, arrived a year before white-minority rule ended in 1994, and helped build a new South Africa.
The family, which has interests in mining, engineering and the media, said its the target of "xenophobic and hate speech," a grave allegation in a country grappling not just with its legacy of racial conflict but also periodic violence against immigrants.
The Gupta family's "interaction" with Zuma began before he became president, and allegations of corruption are false, the statement said.
Zuma's son, Duduzane, has business links to the Guptas, according to media reports.
Zuma's relationship with the Guptas is front-page news here. Blending both names, a Mail and Guardian headline said: "Battle lines drawn: Zuptas vs the rest."