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Name game blamed for Gupta debacle

Name-dropping is the main cause behind the unlawful landing of an aircraft carrying 270 guests to the Gupta family wedding at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in April, according to a report by the government.

"It was not a name that was dropped, but names. The defence minister's name [Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula], the transport minister's name [Ben Martins] and the president's name were all used," Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told journalists in Pretoria on Sunday.

He was leading a press briefing on a report detailing the ministerial investigation into the 30 April landing that brought the relationship between the Gupta family and President Jacob Zuma into sharp focus.

Guests were attending the wedding of Vega Gupta (23) and Indian-born Aakash Jahajgarhia at Sun City. The landing sparked widespread criticism.

Government had initiated a probe into a possible breach of diplomatic protocol.

Pulling strings
The investigation revealed that an initial attempt by the Gupta family to organise a special landing at OR Tambo Airport was turned down. The Guptas then approached the Indian High Commission who re-designated the wedding entourage as an official delegation to secure a landing at the Waterkloof base.

This was not cleared by the international relations department and the commission dealt directly with the air force command post to obtain flight clearance.

"The investigating team has conclusively found that in February 2013 the Gupta family approached the Airports Company South Africa and requested landing rights and an elaborate reception for the wedding party," Radebe said.

"This would have disrupted the functioning of OR Tambo International Airport at the time of landing, particularly the operations of the national immigration branch at the airport."

The request was turned down.

Abuse of diplomatic processes
Flanked by several ministers from the justice cluster, Radebe said the actions of those involved posed a threat to the South African government and was an abuse of diplomatic processes.

"The activities of some of the people involved were driven by the undesirable practice of the exercise of undue influence and abuse of higher office," Radebe added.

According to the report, no minister, nor Zuma, was directly involved in the incident.

"No minister, nor the president, was involved in the landing of this plane. The president does not sanction the landing of planes," Radebe added.

Radebe said all individuals found to have facilitated the landing would face legal action.

"Whoever is involved, the law must take its course," he added.

Several cases had already been registered at the Sun City police station in the North West.

The charges were contravention of the Firearms Control Act, the National Road Traffic Act and the Private Security Industry Regulatory Act.

A case of contravening the South African Police Act was registered at Lyttleton police station in Gauteng.

Not a national key point
Radebe also revealed that Waterkloof Air Base was not a national key point, contradicting earlier claims by both the government and the ANC.

"The base is a strategic military base that resorts under the Defence Act, Act 44 of 1957," he said.

"It is not a national key point and is not governed by the National Key Points Act."

Radebe and his colleagues were at times vague in answering questions and said all queries relating to the illegal landing and those responsible would be fully answered once the report on their investigation was released.

The report is due to be released during the course of this week, Radebe said. – Additional reporting by Sapa

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Nickolaus Bauer
Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend.

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