Zuma wary of impact of probes on SA, India ties

2013-05-03 22:11
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma on Friday welcomed the investigations underway into the landing of a Gupta family-chartered jet at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, but emphasised that the investigation should not be allowed to impact negatively on the relations between South Africa and India.

"The president is kept abreast by the ministers on the steps that are being taken to establish what happened in order to prevent a recurrence, and to ensure that whoever is found to have breached regulations and procedures is brought to book," Zuma's spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

Maharaj added: "The president has emphasised that the investigation and the manner in which this matter is handled should not be allowed to impact negatively on the warm and friendly historical relations that exist between the governments of the Republic of South and the Republic of India and also between the peoples of South Africa and India, which go back to the very beginning of our respective struggles against colonialism and apartheid."

He said that the presidency urged all affected parties to co-operate fully with the investigation.

Earlier, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told reporters that the investigations could include looking into the role the Gupta family played in the saga, Sapa reported.

A committee of directors general had been given seven working days to complete a probe and report to Cabinet on how the jet was allowed to illegally land at the air force base in Pretoria.

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

It was carrying guests to the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, to Indian-born Aakash 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.

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

Security breach

Five diplomats, including Indian government ministers, were also aboard the plane, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said.

Her senior officials were to meet Indian High Commissioner Virendra Gupta on Friday to discuss what she called a "diplomatic incident".

"What we need to conclude in seven working days is whether there's been a breach of diplomatic protocol processes... we will use diplomatic channels to register our displeasure with the Indian government," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

This was a sensitive matter as South Africa had sound diplomatic relations with India.

"Whether there'll be punishment or not will be co-ordinated by ourselves, procedurally, working together with the government of India," she said.

No executive authority was granted for the landing, which resulted in government calling it a security breach.

It also emerged that because the Jet Airways plane landed at an air force facility instead of a commercial airport, no landing fees or tariffs were paid.

Passengers were not subjected to customs checks at the base.

SA Revenue Service commissioner Oupa Magashula said customs officials were subsequently sent to Sun City, where wedding guests were staying, to issue customs forms.

It was however impossible for Sars to search all their bags and ascertain what items they had brought into the country.

Radebe said those responsible for the security breach should face punishment.

Several suspensions and arrests were announced on Friday.

The suspended officials are:

- Chief of State Protocol: Ambassador Bruce Koloane;

- Officer Commanding Air Force Command post: Brigadier General L Lombard;

- Officer Commanding Air Force Base: Brigadier General TS Madumane;

- Movement Control Officer: Lieutenant Colonel C Anderson; and

- SA Police Service Operational Response Services Gauteng Province: Major General Phumza Gela.

In addition, two metro police officers and a reservist were arrested for working for a security company which provided an escort from the base to the wedding venue in Sun City.

Radebe said the private security company illegally fitted blue lights to vehicles with false number plates.

The use of marked SA Police Service cars was still under investigation.

Violations

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 [an] aircraft in a military facility that is of strategic importance to the country."

Government had no record of a note verbale from the Indian High Commission, notifying the department of international relations of a visiting delegation requiring diplomatic assistance, aircraft clearance, and landing rights.

"The defence attach of the Indian High Commission sent a request for aircraft clearance directly to the Air Force Command Unit within the SANDF on April 4," he said.

"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 revealed that the Jet Airways Airbus A330 did not have a foreign operator permit.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) would impose a penalty on the operator of the A330 for violation of the Civil Aviation Regulations.

President Zuma and several ministers were invited to the wedding, some of whom did attend.

Zuma could not attend because of international commitments.

Other ministers chose not to attend.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was one of them, saying: "You do have colleagues who attended... there's nothing wrong with that, and for those of us who did not attend, it could be for specific reasons that we decided not to attend."

Some time before the unauthorised landing, Mapisa-Nqakula had already denied a request for the aircraft to land at Waterkloof.

- News24
Read more on:    caa  |  sandf  |  jeff radebe  |  maite nkoana-mashabane  |  mac maharaj  |  nosiviwe mapisa-nqakula  |  vega gupta  |  jacob zuma  |  gupta wedding  |  military  |  politics
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