Zuma welcomes Gupta jet probe

2013-05-04 09:26

President Jacob Zuma has welcomed the investigations into the landing of a Gupta-family chartered jet at Air Force Base Waterkloof.

“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,” said Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj in a statement.

He said Zuma emphasised that the investigation should not be allowed to impact negatively on the relations between South Africa and India.

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

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 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 yesterday afternoon, amid widespread criticism.

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

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 yesterday 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,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

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

“Whether there’ll be punishment or not will be coordinated 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 yesterday.

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