More heads could roll over Gupta saga

By Drum Digital
03 May 2013

A total of five senior government officials and military personnel have been suspended over the unauthorised landing of a private chartered jet at the Waterkloof Air Force Base.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said in Pretoria on Friday a preliminary probe had been done, but a full investigation by the directors general of the affected departments was underway.

The committee of DGs would report back to Cabinet within seven days, he told reporters.

The Gupta family chartered jet was moved off the Waterkloof Air Force Base on Thursday afternoon, after widespread outrage about private use of a military facility.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) said the plane flew to nearby commercial OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

The wealthy and politically-connected Gupta family landed wedding guests at the base -- a national key point -- on Tuesday morning.

Radebe said the landing had not been cleared by the proper authorities.

"Government is gravely concerned at this violation of the security protocol and total disregard of established practice for clearing the landing of aircraft in a military facility that is of strategic importance to the country," he said.

"Government has no record of a note verbale from the Indian High Commission notifying the department of international relations and co-operation of a visiting delegation requiring diplomatic assistance and aircraft clearance and landing rights."

Radebe said the defence attaché of the Indian High Commission sent a request for aircraft clearance directly to the Air Force Command Unit within the SANDF on April 4.

"The SA Air Force consulted with the Office of State Protocol at [the department] and facilitated the clearance of the aircraft without informing the Chief of the SANDF."

Radebe said the officials involved in coordinating the landing of the aircraft, without the requisite executive authority, "have since been put on compulsory/special leave at [the department of international relations], the SANDF, and [the SA Police Service] respectively".

The escort provided to the Gupta wedding guests who arrived on the plane was not provided by police.

A private security company -- which illegally fitted blue lights to vehicles with false number plates -- was involved.

Police and metro police officers in the security escort had since been arrested, Radebe said.

The SA Civil Aviation Authority would impose a penalty on the operator of the A330 for violation of the Civil Aviation Regulations. The Airbus A330 belonged to Jet Airways.

"The government would like to assure the South African public that no stone will be left unturned to ensure that we get to the bottom of this matter, and hold all those responsible for bringing our country into disrepute whoever they are and whatever position they hold," Radebe said.

"We want to assure the South African public that we will do all in our power to strengthen security protocols and to ensure adherence to them."

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