‘I would have been further if my surname wasn’t Zuma’
Duduzane Zuma is an angry 28-year-old guy.
“If it wasn’t for the Guptas, I would’ve gone the tenderpreneur route. 100%. What other options do I have? Then there would’ve been plundering,” says the soft-spoken son of President Jacob Zuma, dressed in linen turquoise for his interview with City Press.
The young Zuma was shoved into the spotlight through his business relationships with the Guptas – in particular with the youngest brother Tony.
Tony and Duduzane are directors of Mabengela Investments, which owns a stake in the yet-to-be approved, controversial ArcelorMittal BEE transaction.
Duduzane disputes claims that he only hooked up with the Guptas after his “old man” was elected president.
“I was introduced to the Gupta family by my father in late 2001, just like I met many people.
“At that time, my father said, I’ve got an interest in taking an IT direction in my life, and at that point they were doing the Sahara thing. It just made sense.
“Part of my first work experience was at Sahara, I didn’t come on to the books recently. They showed me the ropes.”
Duduzane then raises his voice and asks: “Do you think that we’ve benefited off these deals? I’m talking money in the bank. And if I tell you no?”
Wrong perceptions are “put out there” that he made billions through his business dealings with the Guptas.
“I have a company just like everyone else, we all have to start somewhere. I’m trying to build a credible business case and a credible business career.
“And I feel people are not giving me that opportunity. I’m being slapped with all sorts of labels – ‘billionaire overnight’, ‘plundering wealth in a Gaddafi-like state’.
“I get messages of congratulations. I ask them: ‘Why are you congratulating me?’ They say because of these big deals. I tell them: ‘Don’t believe the hype.’
“These are perceived deals that have happened. People have messed up the situation, thinking we are looters who they don’t want to be associated with.
“I’ve chosen to work with the family and chosen to stick with the path we’ve embarked on.”
Asked whether he would’ve made it as big if his surname wasn’t Zuma, Duduzane responds sternly: “I believe I would’ve been further if my surname wasn’t Zuma. It has been a millstone (around my neck) for a very long time.
People forget when my old man was going through all sorts of troubles.
“He had court cases against him and nobody wanted to associate with him. Now people are saying: ‘What do you expect? It must be a corrupt relationship’.”
Duduzane refers to himself as a “politically exposed person” because of his surname. This makes him unattractive to potential business deals.
He believes that he would also have been damned if he lived on his father’s state benefits.
“What perks are there for me? I don’t live in an official house, I don’t travel on the state’s ticket. I need to understand what people want me to do. I’m trying to do the honourable thing by staying away from government business.”
Duduzane says it was with the help of the Guptas that he decided to stay away from government business.
“Can’t people look at that and recognise that? I don’t understand. What is wrong with people? We’re trying to do the right thing, we’re trying to be doers and not thinkers, takers or talkers.
“We’re travelling up and down to attract investment to the country and this is the thanks that we get.”
Ajay Gupta says Duduzane has been a “hard worker”. And Mr Zuma Jnr quickly adds: “And I eat sushi off plates.”