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South Africa’s elite policing unit, the Hawks, are currently searching the country for fugitive Ajay Gupta, Atul Gupta, Rajesh “Tony” Gupta and Duduzane Zuma.
Following the fall of Jacob Zuma from the presidency, a number of Gupta associates have been arrested by police. Ajay Gupta is wanted in connection with the Estina Dairy Farm project, but the Hawks just can’t seem to find him.
“Suspect Ajay Gupta is evading the law, we have begun to hunt him down. He can run but he can’t hide,” tweeted South Africa’s minister of police Fikile Mbalula early Saturday.
Suspect Ajay Gupta is evading the law,We have begun to hunt him down. He can run but he can’t hide #Estina
— Min of Police: Mr Fearfokkol (@MbalulaFikile) February 17, 2018
Naturally, anything that “Mr Fearfokkol” tweets becomes viral. More than 2000 likes, 900 tweets and 700 comments later, Ajay Gupta was in everyone’s predictive text memory.
A R500 000 reward (R100 000 each) was initially on offer for those with information that leads to the arrest of the four aforementioned men, and includes photos of their passports.
And additional R100 000 bonus will be added for the arrest of all four in one go. (Yes, this does sound like a game show.)
— Pieter-Louis Myburgh (@PLMyburgh) February 17, 2018
The reward is set to expire on Sunday 18 February 2018, but South African business people believed that they could go one better. Actually, more like 900 000 better.
“I am willing to match the reward Rand for Rand. So now we have R1 million in the pool. South Africans, contribute your spy skills. We need these crooks in jail where they belong,” tweeted businesswoman Magda Wierzycka.
I am willing to match the reward Rand for Rand. So now we have R1 million in the pool. South Africans, contribute your spy skills. We need these crooks in jail where they belong. As soon as possible. https://t.co/5igHP5xHl8
— Magda Wierzycka (@Magda_Wierzycka) February 17, 2018
That tweet received an additional 1000 likes and 1200 related tweets at the time of writing.
But was that the end of it? Nope.
In a Deal or No Deal moment, another R400 000 was added to the kitty by player three.
“I’m topping this up with R400 000. The reward is now R1.4 million,” tweeted Phiwa Nkambule, CEO of fintech company Riovic.
I’m topping this up with R400 000. The reward is now R1,4 million. https://t.co/67yQ5G273K
— Phiwa Nkambule (@PhiwaNk) February 17, 2018
So. A new reward was set. And South Africans with their phones in hand and Twitter apps open, armed themselves with binoculars and jest ready to capture the fugitive.
Found him pic.twitter.com/TZJYCCZaX3
— imelda N (@neate001) February 17, 2018
— AnnabellaMmalaMokone (@MmalaMokone) February 16, 2018
— BENZITO ☔⛈🌩 (@benzito142) February 16, 2018
Some however questioned the idea.
“What’s this…new-age bounty hunters? I am not sure I approve,” replied the Daily Maverick’s assistant editor Marianne Thamm.
I understand your sentiment but I do not approve of asking citizens to be pimps…it creates a dangerous precedent…I ask you to consider withdrawing this offer and placing your money elsewhere where it will be extremely helpful….If you can convince me otherwise please do…
— MarianneThamm (@MarianneThamm) February 17, 2018
Others queried the ethics behind offering reward money for information.
Offering a bribe may be unethical, but it shouldn’t be a crime. Accepting a bribe is breaking your contract with your employer – that is a crime. Your anger and bounty should rather be on Zuma and the politicians involved.
— Graeme Pyle (@graemepyle) February 17, 2018
Surely the money could be put to better use? Wondered others.
South African people are dying of hunger and you are willing to spend enormous amounts of money to satisfy your childhood fantasies of being superheros. You definitely lack moral and ethical judgement. I’m sick and tired of capital that lacks humanity.
— Petrus Samana (@PetrusSamana) February 17, 2018
Plz pay for my fees instead pic.twitter.com/cipN9yxUil
— I’m Xhosa Just So U know! (@BongeloSimphiwe) February 17, 2018
But is this just a crafty social stunt?
Magda Wierzycka’s Twitter account gained more than 800 followers on 17 February 2018, an account that normally sees less than 100 new fans a day. The user interactions with Phiwa Nkambule’s tweet also likely buffed the credentials of his well-used but not well followed Twitter account.
Either way, stunt or not, it’s not likely that South Africans will turn around and walk away if they spot one of these men this weekend.
Feature image: screenshot, Magda Wierzycka (@Magda_Wierzycka) via Twitter