No permission for Guptas to use air base – SANDF

2013-04-30 16:47

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The military is not aware of any permission granted for the Gupta family to use the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria, SA National Defence Force spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini has said.

“As far as I know, no permission has been granted to a private citizen to use the base. It is a military base and a national key point used by government and its guests.”

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

“In response to further media inquiries, the Gupta family reiterates that permission for aircraft, carrying foreign ministers and other dignitaries, was obtained from the SANDF beforehand.

“No aircraft is able to land anywhere in the world without obtaining prior permission,” Naidoo said.

Attempts to get Naidoo to clarify when the permission was issued were unsuccessful.

The Gupta family, which owns The New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers, will celebrate the wedding of Vega Gupta (23) to Indian-born Aaskash Jahajgarhia at Sun City, North West, between tomorrow and Saturday.

Earlier today, the Gupta family said authorities had granted permission for a private jet, with family wedding guests on board, to land there.

“The Waterkloof [Air Force Base] was used, as Lanseria airport could not accommodate the size of the jet chartered by the family,” Gupta wedding spokesperson Haranath Ghosh said in a statement.

The Indian High Commission, and not the family, applied for and was granted the permission, he said.

Attempts to confirm this with the High Commission in Pretoria were unsuccessful.

Deputy High Commissioner Armstrong Changsan said the High Commissioner was the only one allowed to comment, and he was not available until Monday.

Eyewitness News reported today that private jets were landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base and that blue-light vehicles were escorting guests to Sun City.

Dlamini said the SANDF knew nothing about this.

“Let them [Guptas] tell you who they got the permission from and that they show it to you,” he said.

“If the Gupta family say the commission got the permission, then the commission should be asked who they got it from, if they have such a permission.”

Dlamini could not answer why private jets were allowed to land at the air force base if they had no permission to do so.

“What you are asking is just speculation. Ask the Indian High Commission who they got permission from to land,” he said.

Ghosh said all transport arrangements had been transparently made.

“Naturally, suitable protocol was used to receive and transport the foreign ministers to the wedding,” he said.

International relations department spokesperson Clayson Monyela said Waterkloof Air Force Base was a military facility and had nothing to do with his department.

“Whoever applied for permission to use the base did it with the SANDF; that had nothing to do with the department,” he said.

The Democratic Alliance called for Auditor-General Terence Nombembe to investigate the Gupta family’s “abuse of public resources”.

“Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and other government departments responsible for allowing the Guptas free reign of public resources must be held accountable,” spokesperson Dianne Kohler-Barnard said in a statement.

“I am writing today to Auditor-General Terence Nombembe requesting that he investigate the abuse of public resources for the benefit of the Guptas,” she said.

The Freedom Front Plus said Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula should “provide answers” regarding the use of the base.

“Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula must provide answers as to why the Waterkloof Air Force Base was made available for the Gupta family and whether they will be paying for the use of the airport ... and what costs it amounts to,” said FF Plus spokesperson Pieter Groenewald.

The “excuse” that Lanseria airport was not suitable for the Guptas’ aircraft was “unacceptable”, as Mafikeng airport was closer to Sun City and suitable for large aircraft.

“It appears that the air force are bending over backwards to accommodate the Guptas who are well known for their financing of the ANC,” Groenewald said.

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