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How the Guptas hijacked a mine

Publish date: 04 December 2017
Issue Number: 754
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Lesotho

In August 2014, Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane appointed Atul Gupta as an ‘economic investment envoy’. Thabane said ANC President Jacob Zuma had introduced him to the Gupta family and he had enlisted them ‘to help scout for investment’ for the country. However, an analysis on the Daily Maverick site notes that evidence is emerging that the main ‘investment’ the Guptas were touting – apart from in Thabane himself – was their takeover of a Lesotho diamond mine. When Thabane appointed Gupta as a special adviser he granted him, his business partner Salim Essa and a third Gupta associate diplomatic passports. ’They have influence in a number of countries that can help Lesotho,’ he said. Thabane was in a precarious political position. In June 2014, he had suspended Parliament in order to prevent a vote of no confidence, and in August had been forced to flee the country to avoid an attempted coup. But by October 2014, Thabane was back, thanks to the intervention of SADC but had been forced to call a snap election. In such a fraught situation, why would Thabane and his mines’ Minister – besieged by political rivals – take the risk of offering a lucrative diamond mine to the controversial Guptas? Investigations by amaBhungane and MNN now show that Thabane stood to benefit in other ways. Multiple sources, including the PM's son, son, Potlako Thabane, confirmed that the Guptas also offered to provide funding to the embattled Prime Minister’s re-election campaign.

Full analysis on the Daily Maverick site