Johannesburg - As immigration officers swooped on ANN7’s Midrand headquarters on Tuesday, owner of the TV station Mzwanele Manyi cried foul, saying he was being persecuted and sabotaged.
Four employees were nabbed for allegedly being in the country without proper documentation. In a day of high drama that saw the Guptas, who are the former owners of the TV station and The New Age newspaper, subjected to a three frontal assault, a convoy of immigration vehicles arrived at the media house’s premises in Midrand shortly after 11am. This was as they launched another raid targeted at Indian employees they believed were working in the country illegally with expired visas.
Manyi barred the officials and police from entering the premises, saying “they had no documentation” to show that they had authority to conduct another swoop to fish out Indian employees believed to be working in the country illegally.
“I am being harassed,” protested Manyi, who bought the Gupta family’s Oakbay Investments’ shares in ANN7 and TNA in a “vendor-financed” deal last year, for a reported R450 million.
Four employees, all Indians, were later arrested in the second raid in just two weeks. On February 22, Home Affairs raided the offices in search of employees in senior positions who started working for the company during the Gupta era.
Also on Tuesday, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba sought to clarify the controversy around the Guptas’ citizenship in South Africa, claiming that Ajay Gupta, one of the three Indian-born brothers at the centre of state capture allegations, is not on the run for using a South African passport.
Gigaba said only Ajay’s wife, mother and two children were granted citizenship.
Adding to the Guptas’ woes, Indian media ran a series of reports on Tuesday about several Gupta-owned properties in India being raided by income tax officials. The raids were also carried out at their Sahara (computer) offices in Hakikat Nagar, while the home of Ajay Gupta’s accountant also received a visit, with documents being seized.
The SABC’s Indian correspondent, Neha Poonia, tweeted: “Income tax officials in India making enquiries about their (Guptas’) company Sahara. Properties of #Gupta family friend Amar Gupta also raided.
“I’m told that the family’s properties in other parts of the country are being raided simultaneously.”
Also read: Gupta property raided in India
Tuesday’s raids come less than a month after the Hawks swooped on the Guptas’ compound in Saxonwold, Joburg, where some documents were seized.
The raid was in connection with the family’s involvement in state capture and the ongoing fraud and corruption investigation into the Estina dairy farm in the Free State, where the family allegedly received R30million that was used for the lavish Gupta wedding at Sun City in 2013.
Ajay and Atul Gupta, together with former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, are being sought by the South African authorities and have since been declared fugitives.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi told The Star that they were not involved with the raids in India.
Said Manyi: “Right now, I am being persecuted. I don’t even have time to focus on my business. People are coming up with all kinds of things to destroy me.
“I also think we have internal sabotage I am being sabotaged I think there are people in this organisation whose mission is to undermine what we are doing and I don’t know on whose payroll they are.”
Manyi said he strongly believed he was under attack for something he knew nothing about. He said immigration officers should rather be raiding Hillbrow, Yeoville, Bedfordview and townships which were “known to have a prevalence of foreign nationals”.
“Immigration officers just descended here, without notice. Instead, they come to a formal business with people with proper documentation and they just want to harass us.”
An ANN7 insider said immigration officers did not allow anyone without an identity document to leave the premises.
“A staff meeting was called. There is a mix of illegal and legal Indians here. Those who have documentation to be in the country are in solidarity with those who don’t.
“When this whole thing started, they boycotted and gathered at the office of Abhinav Sahay (head of news). We are glad this is happening, these guys must just go.”
This came as the high court in Joburg on Tuesday postponed to Friday the application by a Canadian bank to ground a Gupta-owned jet plane.
This was after the Gupta family defaulted on their $41m (R482m) loan for the jet. The company believes the Gupta brothers might use it to evade the law. - Additional reporting by Sihle Manda