Waterkloof saga: Security was paramount - official

2013-05-02 22:00
(Picture: Beeld)

(Picture: Beeld)

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Johannesburg - Virendra Gupta, the Indian High Commissioner, said special permission to land a chartered jet at Waterkloof Air Force base was obtained for security reasons, SABC reported on Thursday.

The wealthy and politically-connected Gupta family landed guests at the Waterkoof Air Force Base - a national key point - on Tuesday morning ahead of their niece's wedding.

"We did apply for permission for the landing... because there were several VIPs, senior political figures from India who were going to come on the flight," Gupta told the national broadcaster.

"And because of factors relating to security, it's very paramount."

He said there was a concern about security when senior political figures travelled abroad.

"For the stand point of convenience we applied for permission of landing the aircraft at Waterkloof following standard procedures."

The SABC showed footage of guests at the wedding. President Jacob Zuma's nephew Khulubuse Zuma and former minister Essop Pahad were among the guests.

Pahad told the SABC he was at the wedding to have a good time.

Atul Gupta told the SABC that he did not think his connection with Zuma had anything to do with landing the jet at the air force base.

"No plane in the world can be landed anywhere without permission," he said.

Some were trying to create controversy for unknown reasons, he said.

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.

News of the aircraft landing angered political parties and organisations including the ANC, DA, IFP, Cosatu, and the SA Communist Party.

Negative reporting

The Gupta family on Thursday bemoaned what it described as "negative reporting" around the wedding.

"It was planned as a destination wedding to tempt other Indian families to use South Africa as a venue, instead of going to Mauritius or Thailand," the family said in a statement.

The family said it had not been directly involved in the Waterkloof incident, but had been assured by the Indian High Commission that proper processes were followed and agreements reached with the appropriate officials.

On Thursday, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ordered that the jet be removed from the air force base.

The minister further called for an investigation on why the air force was approached with a request to use the base.

She said the international relations and co-operation department had agreed to the Indian High Commission's request for the use of it.

On Tuesday, SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said the force was not aware of any permission granted for the Gupta family to use the air force base.

But Gupta family spokesperson Gary Naidoo insisted in a brief statement on that permission was obtained from the SANDF to use the base.

On Thursday, the department of international relations and the SA Revenue Service (Sars) also said they would be investigating how the jet was allowed to land at Waterkloof.

International relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela said neither the department nor the presidency granted executive authority for the aircraft to land at the base.

Monyela said the Chief of State Protocol, ambassador Bruce Koloane, had been suspended while it conducted its investigation.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had placed him on compulsory leave with immediate effect.

Investigation

Cabinet said government remained in the dark over who had allowed the private aeroplane to land at the air force base.

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said high-level investigations into the matter were underway.

He also confirmed that Zuma, said to be a close ally of the Guptas, was not attending the wedding.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions in the North West said its members who worked at Sun City complained that the family did not want to be served by the black staff who were employed at the resort.

"They demand that their services must be rendered by white personnel, starting from the cleaning of their rooms, the cooking and the drivers of the shuttles they use in the resort," provincial secretary Solly Phetoe said in a statement.

Cosatu also complained that the Gupta family was being escorted around by police using state vehicles.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced on Thursday that national police commissioner Riah Phiyega had launched an internal investigation into the wedding saga.

"I have further instructed that in the event that such transgressions occurred, that the law must take its course on any person found to be responsible," Mthethwa said in a statement.

He said he was expecting a preliminary report by the end of Thursday.

Read more on:    cosatu  |  sandf  |  nathi mthethwa  |  collins chabane  |  nosiviwe mapisa-nqakula  |  bruce koloane  |  riah phiyega  |  jacob zuma  |  india  |  gupta wedding  |  gupta jet

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