An international campaign was launched in Johannesburg on Thursday to bring the self-exiled Gupta brothers back to South Africa to face trial on charges of looting billions of rands from state institutions.
Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who are accused of massive state capture due to their closeness to former president Jacob Zuma, fled South Africa when the net closed on them as huge public protests eventually led to the African National Congress (ANC) removing Zuma and appointing Cyril Ramaphosa as Acting President. Ramaphosa was subsequently returned to the position after elections.
The Guptas and their families are believed to be living in Dubai, with which South Africa signed an extradition treaty in June this year, but there has been little progress on the country's request to bring them back as there are warrants for their arrest.
There is also speculation that some family members may be in India.
The campaign, launched by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF), received pledges of support from a number of organisations locally and abroad which fight corruption.
As cases continue to be investigated, AKF Chairperson Derek Hanekom said the earlier claims that billions of rands looted from state institutions was "hopelessly inadequate".
"Reports received some years ago about the estimated amounts lost to our economy through state capture proved to be hopelessly under-estimations. Now, we are talking anything up to a trillion rand that was lost to our economy in its various forms," Hanekom said.
"We know that the Guptas played a fundamental role with the full support of the then president of the country and various ministers of state," he said.
"It is a travesty of justice that the Gupta brothers, who stole so much from our country, are walking free in another country in the world. We want to see justice done - they are effectively fugitives from justice. We do need international cooperation to ensure, with respect to the Gupta brothers, that justice is done and seen to be done," Hanekom said.
AKF Executive Director Shan Balton pointed out that most of the emphasis was on the Gupta brothers at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture initiated by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Earlier on Thursday, the Commission, led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, announced that its report would be handed to Ramaphosa on January 1, 2022.
"The template that (the Guptas) created, or perhaps perfected, has been rolled out throughout the length and breadth of the country, leaving us with a continuity of this issue that will now be grappled with," Balton said, adding that early next year, the Foundation would issue an "Orange Book", listing all the organisations and persons that have been involved in state capture.
The "orange" signifies the colour of the overalls worn by prisoners as standard dress in South African prisons.
Rev Frank Chikane, who convened the 'Defend our Democracy Campaign'' three years ago, said the Guptas had corrupted not just parastatals but even the security and intelligence agencies to avoid arrest.
"When you do that, it amounts to a coup d'etat," Chikane said.
Wayne Duvenhage, CEO of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) said even four years after the massive stash of documents nicknamed "the Gupta Leaks" first surfaced, evidence was still emerging of those that made it possible for the Guptas to gain access to billions of rands of South African taxpayers' money.
Peter Hain, a veteran anti-apartheid activist who led the struggle from the UK after being hounded out by the minority white government in the 1970's, sent a message of support from there.
"We also must insist that banks like HSBC, Standard Chartered and Baroda Bank surrender the digital trails that will show where the Guptas and Zuma laundered their money," Hain said.
When all major South Africa banks stopped dealing with the Guptas, they found support only from the local branch of the Bank of Baroda, which subsequently shut down its South African operations, citing global restructuring.
Hain said the lawyers who assisted the Guptas, mainly in Dubai, Hong Kong and the Caribbean, who assisted the Guptas, must also provide full details of their complicity in the money laundering.
Other organisations which pledged their support for the campaign included the NGO's Right2Know and Corruption Watch, the Communist Party of South Africa, Shadow World Investigations, and the US-based Action for Southern Africa.
The Guptas first arrived in South Africa from Saharanpur as democracy dawned after the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990. A small shoe store in Johannesburg rapidly expanded into a national business empire straddling the information technology, media and mining sectors.