Cape Town: The National Assembly should investigate “patterns of state capture” by the Indian Gupta family, South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.
The DA made the appeal after Jackson Mthembu, Chief Whip of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), voiced support for calls to investigate “patterns of state capture” by the Gupta family, Xinhua reported.
The wealthy Gupta family, which allegedly keeps close ties with President Jacob Zuma, his family and ANC officials, has been accused of exerting undue influence on South Africa’s state affairs by offering cabinet posts to ANC officials.
The family has, however, denied the accusation.
Earlier this month, DA Leader Mmusi Maimane submitted a substantive motion in the NA, requesting that the House establish an ad hoc committee to investigate revelations regarding the Gupta family and their illicit influence over the Presidency and Executive.
If Mthembu is serious and not merely offering lip service, he and his caucus should support this motion in the NA and work with the opposition to ensure that this ad hoc committee is free of political influence, the DA said in a statement.
“The Gupta family’s influence has infiltrated various government departments and appointment processes, and it is important that an ad hoc committee represented by these portfolios investigate these allegations and report to Parliament,” DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen said in the statement.
If any undue influence or improper conduct is found, the committee should recommend swift action against all those who have compromised their oaths of office, Steenhuisen added.
The committee, he said, must also recommend measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in future to ensure that a fair South Africa is maintained. (IANS)
New research strengthens the case that people used the chocolate ingredient cacao in South America 5,400 years ago, underscoring the seed’s radical transformation into today’s Twix bars and M&M candies.
Tests indicate traces of cacao on artifacts from an archaeological site in Ecuador, according to a study published Monday. That’s about 1,500 years older than cacao’s known domestication in Central America.
“It’s the earliest site now with domesticated cacao,” said Cameron McNeil of Lehman College in New York, who was not involved in the research.
The ancient South American civilization likely didn’t use cacao to make chocolate since there’s no established history of indigenous populations in the region using it that way, researchers led by the University of British Columbia in Canada said.
But the tests indicate the civilization used the cacao seed, not just the fruity pulp. The seeds are the part of the cacao pod used to make chocolate.
Indigenous populations in the upper Amazon region today use cacao for fermented drinks and juices, and it’s probably how it was used thousands of years ago as well, researchers said.
Scientists mostly agree that cacao was first domesticated in South America instead of Central America as previously believed. The study in Nature Ecology & Evolution provides fresh evidence.
Three types of tests were conducted using artifacts from the Santa Ana-La Florida site in Ecuador. One tested for the presence of theobromine, a key compound in cacao; another tested for preserved particles that help archeologists identify ancient plant use; a third used DNA testing to identify cacao.
Residue from one ceramic artifact estimated to be 5,310 to 5,440 years old tested positive for cacao by all three methods. Others tested positive for cacao traces as well, but were not as old.
How cacao’s use spread between South America and Central America is not clear. But by the time Spanish explorers arrived in Central America in the late 1400s, they found people were using it to make hot and cold chocolate drinks with spices, often with a foamy top.
“For most of the modern period, it was a beverage,” said Marcy Norton, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World.”
The chocolate drinks in Central America often contained maize and differ from the hot chocolate sold in the U.S. They did not contain milk, Norton said, and when they were sweetened, it was with honey.
By the 1580s, cacao was being regularly imported into Spain and spread to other European countries with milk being added along the way. It wasn’t until the 1800s that manufacturing advances in the Netherlands transformed chocolate into a solid product, Norton said.
Michael Laiskonis, who teaches chocolate classes the Institute of Culinary Education, said he’s seeing a growing interest in cacao flavors, indicating a return to a time when chocolate wasn’t just an ingredient buried in a candy bar.