Gupta briefing was damage control: DA

By Drum Digital
03 May 2013

A news briefing on Friday by several ministers on the landing of a civilian aircraft at an airforce base was a damage control exercise, the DA said.

It was designed to "firewall" President Jacob Zuma and others from political fallout, said Democratic Alliance spokesman David Maynier.

"That is why we need a full-scale parliamentary investigation by an ad hoc committee of Parliament into Guptagate," he said.

"We need to know what the ministers and deputy ministers knew, when they knew it, and what they did about it. We cannot have a situation where responsibility is displaced to senior officials... in an effort to contain the political fallout," he said.

The jet chartered by the wealthy and politically-connected Gupta family landed at the Waterkloof Air Force Base -- a national key point -- on Tuesday.

It was carrying guests to the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, to Indian-born Aaskash Jahajgarhia at Sun City, North West. The Gupta's own The New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers.

The jet was moved off the base on Thursday afternoon, amid widespread criticism by, among others, the DA, Congress of SA Trade Unions, the African National Congress, the Inkatha Freedom Party, and the SA Communist Party.

The SA National Defence Force said the plane flew to the nearby commercial OR Tambo International Airport, in Kempton Park.

Zuma has been a friend of the Gupta family for about a decade, according to the Bloomberg news website.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe announced earlier that five high ranking officials and military personnel had been suspended over the unauthorised landing.

The suspended officials are:

-- Chief of State Protocol ambassador Bruce Koloane;

-- Airforce command post Brig-Gen L Lombard;

-- Airforce Base Brig-Gen TS Madumane;

-- Movement Control Officer Lt-Col C Anderson, and

-- Gauteng deputy provincial police commissioner Maj-Gen Phumza Gela.

Radebe said the landing was not cleared by proper authorities.

Several South African ministers were invited to the wedding, but some did not attend. Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor said she went to it.

Maynier said the key message from Friday's press conference was that "no executive authority was granted for the plane to land".

"It is hard to believe that not one minister or deputy-minister in six departments... knew anything about the request for the Guptas' jet... to land...."

The MP said he did not believe everyone involved in the saga would be investigated, despite an undertaking by ministers.

"It is almost a dead certainty that the senior officials will not be investigating the ministers and deputy ministers who are ultimately responsible for Guptagate," said Maynier.

"We will continue to work on this matter and have now submitted applications... for access to the flight plan... and... tapes for the Guptas' jet."

He said these documents were vital in getting to the bottom of the matter.

There was no immediate reaction from the Gupta family.

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