Why is everyone surprised the Guptas fled?

News that the Guptas are nowhere to be found in South Africa as they’re in India, attending weddings, visiting Hindu temples and visiting the South African embassy in Dubai in order to submit documents denying everything they ever did has been met with surprise on the part of many South Africans.


It is now common knowledge that the Guptas are alleged to have played a major role in capturing our former President and, with him, vast numbers of state employees and vast portions of state resources. As the truth has started to emerge as to the extent of their network, influence and actions, so it became an inevitability that they would have to be rounded up to face charges that must be put to them.

But that didn’t appear to be particularly high up on NDPP Shaun Abrahams’s list of priorities, until, that is, he realised that his then current, now former Personal Protector, Jacob Zuma, was about to exit his position. Suddenly our Shaun found his “courage” and swung into action to start proceedings against the Guptas.

Of course, to make sure that politicians and the public alike were suitably impressed with how smart and unbiased he was, acting without fear or favour, he needed to ensure that the media were duly informed as to what he was about to do. After all, that would make him look good to his new boss, President Ramaphosa. Imagine … If the President and the public knew what he was up to, they would surely applaud him when the Guptas were frog marched from their Saxonwold compound to the nearest police station.

The plan to win political and public approval in one fell swoop of the Hawks seemed foolproof. Except for one thing – the fairly big chance that the Guptas would read about it in the newspapers themselves. And, if they had two brain cells in their heads, they would have made very sure that they were nowhere to be found.

Surely “Taking Action Against Criminals 101” teaches you that, if you’re intending to take action against criminals, the last thing you should be doing is telling the media, whose duty it is to tell everyone else, including the alleged criminals, giving the said alleged criminals plenty of time to make sure they’re not at home when the Hawks and a bunch of other law enforcement people come knocking.

As I read story after story of how the Guptas were going to be arrested, I marvelled at the fact that this was appearing in the press. It therefore came as no surprise when the quarry was nowhere to be found.

Maybe I’m pointing the finger at Abrahams unfairly. Maybe it wasn’t he who told the media. It could have been one of his team who leaked the story. Whoever it was should not be working for a law enforcement agency at all as they have not the faintest clue of how to play the game not any commitment to seeing justice done.   

Surely, if you’re planning on taking action against suspects who you know have access to loads of cash and private planes, the last thing you’re going to do is let anyone know that you’re even thinking about arresting them. Do you really think they’re going to sit idly waiting for the inevitable knock on the door?

So what are the lessons we can learn from this?

1 Make sure you have competent people on your team.
2 Build a culture of trust so no-one leaks sensitive information to the media.
3 If people break that trust, take the appropriate action.
4 Focus on achieving your goal in the best way possible.
5 Actions speak louder than words. Don’t tell people what you’re going to do. Just do it and let them be the judge thereafter.

Agility is currently a word that’s being discussed in many C-suites. Agile leaders will take action promptly and appropriately. If this had been the case with the Guptas, we would be discussing their upcoming trial rather than the fact that they’re probably not going to come back to South Africa if they can help it. If you had been given the chance to skip the country to avoid the consequences of alleged criminal actions, would you?

Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and helps business leaders learn to lead with purpose and agility.

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