Phiyega orders probe into Gupta wedding police escort

"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 on Thursday.

"The investigation is underway and I am expecting a preliminary report by the end of today [Thursday]."

The wealthy and politically-connected Gupta family landed wedding guests at the Waterkoof Air Force Base – a national key point – on Tuesday morning.

News of the aircraft landing angered political parties and organisations including the ANC, Democratic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party, Cosatu, and the South African Communist Party.

The parties called it an abuse of state resources, which put the country's security at risk.

Meanwhile, government remained in the dark over who allowed a private aeroplane chartered by the Gupta family to land at Waterkoof Air Force Base, Cabinet said on Thursday.

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

The inquiries – by the departments of international relations and defence, and the South African Revenue Service (Sars) – would seek to find whether diplomatic privilege had been abused.

Several government departments denied giving clearance for the jet to land at the base.

Chabane said he was not aware of dignitaries aboard the plane and whether a police escort was provided from the base to the wedding venue at Sun City, North West.


"I'm not aware of the reason why the escort was provided … escorts are provided for soccer teams," he said. On reports that the wedding guests from India were in the country illegally, Chabane said the group would have had to show they had visas.

Gupta jet out
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ordered that the Gupta family's chartered jet be removed from Waterkloof 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 was informed about media reports on the clearance given to the aircraft during her visit to Ethiopia.

When she returned on Wednesday she asked for an urgent briefing from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

She said the international relations and cooperation department agreed to the Indian High Commission's request for the use of the base.

The guests, however, had avoided paying customs duties. Sars was not told of guests arriving at the base, meaning no customs officials were sent there, spokesperson Adrian Lackay said.

Reports suggest invited guests to the multimillion-rand affair included President Jacob Zuma, government ministers, Indian ministers and other dignitaries. Zuma would not be attending as he was travelling to Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo, ahead of an international meeting to discuss matters in the Central African Republic.

Chabane said he would also not be attending the Gupta nuptials. Asked about the attendance of South African government ministers at the wedding and whether this was connected to the plane arriving at Waterkloof, Chabane said: "I would say many people received invites to attend, and I don't think it has a direct line … [to] a minister attending and the events which surround the plane [landing] at Waterkloof."

Earlier on Thursday the international relations department said the chief of state protocol, ambassador Bruce Koloane, had been placed on suspension while it conducted its investigation into the use of the base.

Meanwhile, the DA has called for a parliamentary probe into why a chartered jet carrying guests for Vega Gupta's wedding was allowed to land at Waterkloof air base.

DA MP David Maynier described as "extraordinary" a statement by Mapisa-Nqakula that the Jet Airways Airbus A300-200's use of Waterkloof, outside Pretoria, was unauthorised.

"It confirms that virtually every rule in the book was broken in order to comply with the wishes of the Gupta family, who had previously requested the use of Air Force Base Waterkloof," he said.

Maynier said he had received confirmation from South African Civil Aviation Authority acting director Poppy Khoza that the Gupta's use of Waterkloof to land their chartered jet was unauthorised.

"In fact, she did not even receive a request to authorise the use of AFB Waterkloof for 'civil aviation purposes', as is required by the Civil Aviation Authority Regulations," he said.

Maynier said while it appeared "every rule in the book may have been broken", it was hard to believe Koloane — together with senior military officers, and acting on a request from the Indian High Commission — had "pulled off the landing" of the Gupta's plane without political authorisation.

"The 'rogue officials' explanation is hard to believe and smacks of damage control."

It needed to be determined how the Guptas were able to effectively hijack the state and secure landing rights and the use of Waterkloof, as well as protection from the South African Police Service VIP Unit, he said.

Maynier welcomed the announcement of a full investigation.

"However, we need a separate full-scale parliamentary investigation by an ad hoc committee of Parliament to investigate what has become known as 'Guptagate'."

The DA will ask National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu to urgently appoint a multiparty ad hoc committee.

The Gupta family, which owns the New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers, is celebrating the wedding of Vega Gupta (23) to Indian-born Aakash Jahajgarhia. – Sapa

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sapa
Guest Author
Advertising

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday