The Guptas found themselves in the firing line again on Friday when they were accused of attempting to “capture the voice of black business”.
The Gupta family did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Convener of the Save South Africa campaign, Sipho Pityana, told City Press the reported “snubbing” of the Guptas by the Black Business Council was a “small but significant step in putting a stop to the Guptas”.
Pityana said the council should be “commended for rejecting what can only be seen as a bribe”.
He was responding to an article published in the Times on Friday about a proposal to have Oakbay Resources and Energy become a member of the council, which is an important lobby group for black business. According to the report, former government spokesperson and now head of policy at the business council, Jimmy Manyi, made the proposal last month. The Guptas reportedly also offered R5 million and R1 million a year to the council on membership.
Manyi too, did not immediately respond to requests for comment but earlier on Twitter dismissed the allegations as lies.
When approached for comment, secretary-general of the council George Sebulelo also denied that they received a formal membership request from the family.
He said it might have been raised informally in the corridors or over drinks, but he was not aware of any official request for membership.
Pityana said it was critical that the council retained its independence. “And in so doing remains a representative voice of black business – rather than a captured voice.”
Sebulela however made it clear that membership was not automatic even if a business could pay.
“There are vigorous discussions on membership. This is not an individual decision, but a collective decision. It is not about money. There are certain conditions all members need to comply with.”
He also insisted the council did not allow itself to be influenced by those seeking membership.
“We are not open for capture. We are not a mouthpiece for anybody or any organisation.” Sebulela also did not want to pre-empt a Gupta application for membership, save to say that there was nothing restraining them to do so and that the same principles would apply as with all membership applications. He also did not want to be drawn into what such a decision would mean for the image of the council, given the public perception of the family.
The council had previously come out strongly in support of President Jacob Zuma’s leadership especially for the gains with black economic empowerment.
Pityana also lashed out at Manyi saying he had some serious questions to answer about this latest episode. “Was he installed into the council’s leadership as a Trojan horse for the Guptas’ interests?” Pityana asked.
“Jimmy Manyi is a sellout. He usurps the noble cause of black economic empowerment to benefit shady characters like the Guptas,” he said.
Manyi has repeatedly come out in defence of the Guptas amid public critique of the family.