Just how many people do the Guptas employ in South Africa?

When he defended the Gupta family against criticism of “state capture”, the head of their holding company claimed that Gupta businesses employ more than 4,500 people in South Africa, and later 7,500. But we couldn't find sources supporting these totals.

UPDATE: Hours after this report was published, news broke that the Gupta-owned Tegeta Resources had made the necessary R2.15 billion payment to acquire Optimum coal mine. As we anticipated, this increased the total number of people employed by companies falling under the Guptas’ Oakbay Investments.

But the number does not add up to 7,500, as CEO Nazeem Howa claimed to the Financial Times. Optimum coal mine’s general manager, Thys de Bruin, provided Africa Check with “ballpark figures”. He said: “I can confirm that we employ 460 full-time employees on our payroll and 1,500 full-time contractors through a service provider.” (A total of 1,960 people.)

This means the different Gupta-owned companies now employ between 4,632 and 4,852 people, give or take, excluding The New Age newspaper’s staff, which we have been unable to confirm so far.

In South Africa, the Gupta family and their close relationship with key government leaders continue to dominate headlines. In April, allegations that they have left the country received intense media scrutiny.

Less scrutinised, however, are claims about the total number of people the Guptas employ across their various businesses. The most prominent voice on this issue is the CEO of the family’s holding company, Nazeem Howa.

Shortly after deputy minister of finance, Mcebisi Jonas, claimed in March that the Gupta family had offered him the job of finance minister, Howa wrote in an op-ed for City Press: “Oakbay Investments is the holding company for the Gupta family’s businesses, and we employ more than 4,500 people in South Africa.”

Last week, Business Day reported on Howa’s attempts to restore relationships with South Africa’s largest banks after they severed ties with Gupta-associated companies – “because the lives of 7,500 employees are at stake”.

So how many people do Gupta companies employ?

No response from CEO

Oakbay Investments’ website shows that the Guptas own companies across a number of sectors.

These include Sahara Computers, JIC Mining Services, Shiva uranium mine, Tegeta Resources, The New Age newspaper, ANN7 television news channel and Clifftop Lodge, a safari lodge located in the Welgevonden private game reserve in the Limpopo province. Also listed under Oakbay Investments is a company called Sahara Systems, distinct from Sahara Computers.

Africa Check asked Howa to provide a breakdown of staff numbers for these companies. However, at the time of publication, he had not responded.

We therefore assembled publicly available information and contacted the companies directly. Doing so gave us an initial figure of between 2,672 and 2,892 people.

However, this excludes employees of The New Age. We contacted the newspaper but have not yet received a response. (Note: We will update this report if we hear back.)

Company Source of data Number of employees
Sahara Computers Shop Directory 210
Sahara Systems Phone conversation with a staff member 30-50
JIC Mining Services JIC profile 1,200
Shiva Uranium Oakbay Resources 2015 annual report “1000+” according to annual report, 800 according to a Shiva uranium mine employee  
The New Age No public information found ?
ANN 7 Information from ANN7 employee 282
Tegeta resources Confirmed to Africa Check by Oakbay corporate communications 130
Clifftop Lodge Confirmation by employee 20

Coal mine deal could push up staff size

The total number of Gupta employees may rise if Oakbay’s recent deal to buy Optimum coal mine goes through, increasing the number of people in the Guptas’ employ from 4,500 to 7,500, Howa told the Financial Times.

But it is unclear whether Oakbay will obtain the necessary cash to finalise the deal, Stuart Theobald, chairman of financial research organisation Intellidex, told Africa Check.

“The Optimum deal requires a cash amount of over R2 billion to be paid to the business rescue practitioners to close the deal. According to the last financial results published by Oakbay for the period ending in August last year, it had cash on hand of less than R200 million. Considering recent reports of several banks having declined to do business with Oakbay, it may be difficult for them to find the necessary financing,” he said.

Conclusion: No data found shows that Guptas employ 4,500 or 7,500 people as CEO claimed

Based on information we could access, the different Gupta-owned companies employ between 2,672 and 2,892 people, excluding The New Age newspaper’s staff.

The New Age would need to employ a minimum of 1,628 people to make up 4,500 employees, which is unlikely. The claim that Gupta businesses employ “more than 4,500”, or 7,500, employees is therefore not supported by available data.


Additional reading

AmaBhungane: The “Gupta-owned” state enterprises

Financial Times: South Africa: the power of the family business

EWN: The Gupta Family

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