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PROTEST AGAINST UAE

Bring back the Guptas — civil society demands justice on Freedom Day 

Bring back the Guptas — civil society demands justice on Freedom Day 
Activists from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and anti-corruption advocacy organisation OUTA protest against the UAE’s refusal to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta, in front of the UAE embassy in Pretoria on 27 April 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

As the country commemorated Freedom Day, 29 years into democracy, civil society groups gathered to protest outside the UAE Embassy in Pretoria, demanding that the South African government reinstate charges against the Gupta brothers in order for an Interpol red notice to be reissued for the brothers to be brought back to the country.  

‘Only when the South African government does what it needs to do can the rest of the world do what it has to do,” said Neeshan Balton, executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.  

The organisation has been at the forefront of the campaign to extradite Atul and Rajesh, the Gupta brothers who are now reportedly citizens of Vanuatu in the Pacific islands.   

Spokesperson for the NPA’s Investigating Directorate, Sindisiwe Seboka, could not comment on any developments to bring the Guptas to book,  except to say, “Those deliberations and talks are currently at high level, and I am not mandated to give details any further.” 

Daily Maverick previously reported that the “UAE had rejected South Africa’s bid to extradite the Guptas as far back as February this year but authorities literally only discovered this at 8pm on Thursday 6 April. This was roughly six weeks after a ruling was handed down in the Emirates – and then, SA officials were only handed a summary of a court judgment in Arabic that required urgent translation overnight before local officials could decipher precisely what had transpired.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Guptas are gone. No one is to blame, everyone did their best. The end 

Not only did the organisation call for the Gupta brothers to be brought back to the country to face the law, but it also demanded the UAE government apologise to SA for making it difficult to extradite them to South Africa, where they face multiple charges of corruption. 

Protesters from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and anti-corruption advocacy organization OUTA protest against the UAE after dismissing an extradition request of brothers Atul and Rajesh Gupta, in front of the UAE embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, 27 April 2023. The protesters gathered to highlight the refusal of the Dubai Appeal Court to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta to face trial in South Africa on charges they laundered the unlawful proceeds of the alleged 24.9-million-rand Nulane scam. (Photo: Kim Ludbrook)

Balton said the apology would assist the country if it wanted to demonstrate goodwill to the people of South Africa as they struggled for freedom from corruption, capture and state failure due to the plundering corruption of the Gupta family and their associates. 

The Guptas perpetuated the erosion of South Africans freedoms

While the picket could have been held on any other day Balton said it was befitting to do it on Freedom Day as many freedoms had been eroded because of social ills, some of which were perpetuated by the Gupta family. 

“Hundreds, if not thousands went to jail and died for the right to vote and for the right to have a South Africa where everybody has dignity and basic freedoms. Today many of those freedoms have been eroded because of corruption, state capture and because of a state that is just falling apart.  

“A major part of why we are here today, is because of, not only because but in a big way, of the corrupt work done by this family, and this family, managed in very sophisticated ways, to corrupt our politics, to corrupt our leaders, and their style of corruption has spread to almost every part of government from local to national, which us why the country is in the mess that it is in,” he said.      

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ten months and counting – no sign of a Gupta, no response from justice department 

The organisation further accused the UAE government of making the task of bringing the brothers back to account for their actions more difficult than ever before.

In its memorandum, the organisation demanded that the UAE government immediately:

  • Apologise for its actions.
  • Commit to working with the SA Government and international agencies to find and apprehend the Guptas.
  • Close all businesses that are owned and operated by the Guptas in the UAE of Gupta accounts and transactions.
  • Freeze Gupta bank accounts and collaborate with SA enforcement agencies in the provision of information of Gupta accounts and transactions.

“The above are the least that we expect the UAE to consider if it wants to demonstrate any goodwill to the people of South Africa.”

Congress of the People spokesperson, Dennis Bloem said: “We want these criminals back in SA, we are sitting with load shedding because of them, there is unemployment because of them. We want them back. We will not get tired (of protesting) until they come back to pay for their crimes.” 

An Outa representative said, “We are really, really hoping that the embassy will listen to us and that the government of Dubai will do what they should have done. Please take this seriously, our country is in a dire state, we need every single small win that we can and if we can win one step at a time, then we can get our beautiful country to the state that it needs to be.” 

Protesters from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and anti-corruption advocacy organization OUTA protest against the UAE after dismissing an extradition request of brothers Atul and Rajesh Gupta, in front of the UAE embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, 27 April 2023. The protesters gathered to highlight the refusal of the Dubai Appeal Court to extradite Atul and Rajesh Gupta to face trial in South Africa on charges they laundered the unlawful proceeds of the alleged 24.9-million-rand Nulane scam. (Photo: Kim Ludbrook)

Some of the attendants also urged South Africans to exercise their right to vote when the country holds general elections in 2024. 

Voting is the key to changing our country   

“Please don’t forget to vote, every single one of us has the opportunity and responsibility to exercise the right to vote, that is the key to changing our country,” said Outa’s representative. 

Meanwhile, Bulelani de Klerk echoed similar sentiments: 

“We just want the government to do its work, because our country is in this mess because of these people. If we just keep quiet, it will keep happening again, and again.” 

Defend Our Democracy’s Zaakirah Vadi said, “We want to know from the UAE if it’s more important for you to see justice or for you to protect those who bring dirty money to your country because that goes to the crux of it.” 

Vadi slammed the UAE president’s recent visit to the country which saw him build a runway of R20-million in one of the most poverty stricken provinces, the Eastern Cape. “We hoped that he would have seen the level of poverty in this country and perhaps get an understanding why justice and accountability is important here. The levels of poverty, the issues of collapse, the crisis on different fronts is because of the likes of the Guptas being allowed to get away.” DM

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