The ANC’s secretary-general Ace Magashule twice drove former Bloemfontein mayor Thabo Manyoni to meet with Atul Gupta in Johannesburg to make sure the Guptas could work with him once he was appointed as premier.
This according to journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book Gangster State: Unraveling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture.
Maynoni told the journalist that Magashule personally picked him up at his home in his official vehicle, a black BMW X5, and then drove him to meet Gupta at the family’s compound in Saxonwold in late 2013. When Gupta entered the room Magashule told him, referring to Manyoni: “This is the person you will be working with.”
According to Manyoni, the scheme was that Magashule would be appointed to former president Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet after the 2014 election and that Manyoni would then become premier of the Free State. Gupta told Manyoni that the Free State was “an important partner” in the family businesses. He also allegedly boasted about his family’s influence and power in the ANC and government.
Myburgh writes that as the conversation progressed Gupta became more boastful saying: “If we call any cabinet minister right now, he or she will be here in an hour.”
All Manyoni had to do was “work with them”, Gangster State alleges Gupta said.
The Guptas seemingly had their eyes on a development worth more than R11bn close to the city’s airport and also wanted increased government spend on the family’s now defunct newspaper, The New Age.
The first visit was followed up by a second one about a month later, with Magashule again driving Manyoni to visit Gupta in Saxonwold. According to Manyoni, he wasn’t open to working with Gupta and Magashule abandoned further efforts to co-opt him.
But Magashule and the Guptas retained strong ties, not least through the corrupt Vrede dairy farm project, in which the provincial government channelled millions of taxpayers’ rands into the project that benefited the Guptas’ companies.
One of Magashule’s children, Tshepiso, also worked for a Gupta company while he and his wife lived in a house about a kilometre away from the Gupta mansion in Saxonwold. Magashule also used this house to broker a meeting between one of the Gupta brothers and a businessman who did work for the Free State government.
Magashule declined to comment when asked a set of more than 60 questions for the book. Gangster State is the first comprehensive audit of Magashule’s activities as one of the ANC’s most powerful figures. The controversial former Free State premier has been accused of various illegal dealings over the years but has never been charged or convicted of any crime.