Zuma’s name cleared

2013-05-20 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s name was among three that were used by officials to get permission from the military for a private plane carrying guests attending a wedding organised by the Gupta family to land at the Waterkloof air force base last month.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe confirmed this at a briefing on a week-long government investigation into the incident in Pretoria yesterday.

He did not release the full report into the incident as promised earlier, saying it would be released later this week.

The names of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula were also used in the “irregular” process of getting permission for the plane to land, Radebe said.

He said the Public Service Department would lead a “public service awareness campaign to discourage the negative culture of name-dropping in the form of the improper use of the names and members of the executive in the public sector”.

It could also be regarded as misconduct in future.

Ministers and Zuma were cleared by the report, which found “members of the executive were not required to issue any instructions, did not issue any instructions, and did not create the impression that they ought to have issued any instructions”, Radebe said.

The blame was placed squarely at the door of officials.

The chief of state protocol, Bruce Koloane, who was suspended just days after the incident, was the official at the centre of the debacle, Radebe said.

Although the correct procedures were followed to get permission for the landing from the air force command, these were based on “false information and abuse of privileges, the combination of which resulted in the manipulation of the process by various persons who shared a common purpose and acted in concert”.

Radebe said the Indian High Commission did not send an official note verbale to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation as required by protocol, but instead an individual from the high commission dealt directly with individuals at the air force command post. Koloane was one of the people who enabled this to happen.

Last week, officials said Koloane was likely to be investigated for possibly having benefitted materially for organising the landing. Radebe yesterday said there would be more clarity on this when the report is released.

He said the air force base was not a national key point but a strategic military base, which is governed by even more stringent security measures.

Radebe added that the report found that among the 121 cars used by the Guptas to transport guests from Pretoria to the wedding in Sun City some employed illegal blue lights that forced other cars off the road.

Because of the size of the convoy, police had to take charge of helping them get to Sun City, he added.

The Guptas used three BMWs with false registration plates, while some Range Rovers and Mercedes-Benzes had the same registration number — all of which was illegal and would be prosecuted, he said.

Altogether, 194 government personnel and 88 vehicles were deployed to help during the operation. The Guptas used 296 private security officers, two fixed-wing aircraft and seven helicopters to get their guests to Sun City from Waterkloof, all of which were authorised as a “package” with clearance for the private jet.

Several cases involving the illegal use of firearms and blue lights and the moonlighting of police officers, which is a crime, have already been opened, and Radebe said there were more prosecutions to come.

The ANC’s national executive committee discussed the Gupta issue at length at its three-day meeting in Pretoria at the weekend. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe is due to brief the media on the meeting today.

According to reports, ANC leaders at the meeting adopted a stance of shielding Zuma and the party ahead of a scheduled National Assembly debate on the matter on Wednesday.

ANC NEC member Lindiwe Zulu, who is also Zuma’s special adviser on international relations, told the Sunday Times the criticism against the plane’s landing was part of “the continued onslaught on the president and an onslaught on the ANC”.

Five questions still to be answered:

1. Did the Guptas break any laws and will there be consequences for them?

2. If the family is found to have approached government officials in a wrongful or unethical way, will the government cease doing business with them (including with the New Age, which gets millions of rands in government sponsorship for hosting business breakfasts)?

3. Why did Bruce Koloane think he could get away with using

irregular procedures to authorise the landing of a private aircraft at a military base?

4. Where was State Security in all this, and what was the real reason behind stopping the surveillance of the Gupta family?

5. Is it correct to rely on the findings of an investigation which was led by the heads of government departments who themselves could have been involved in the incident or should have been accountable?

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