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FACT CHECK: Just how many people do the Guptas employ in SA?

Researched by Africa Check

In South Africa, the Gupta family and their close relationship with key government leaders continue to dominate headlines. This week 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.

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.

Shortly after publishing this fact-check, news broke that the Guptas had acquired Optimum coal mine with the transaction effective on 15 April 2016. We will verify the mine's number of employees and then update this report.

This article appeared on _ AfricaCheck.org, a non-partisan organisation which promotes accuracy in public debate and the media. Follow them on _ Twitter: @AfricaCheck

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