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Guptagate: What name-dropping?

While Radebe on Sunday identified "name-dropping" as one of the key contributors towards the unauthorised landing of the plane carrying Vega Gupta's wedding guests at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, evidence suggests that this was done informally, which is suggestive of further undue influence in diplomatic processes.

On Sunday, Radebe presented a summary of government's probe into the landing. He said the names of President Jacob Zuma, Transport Minister Ben Martins and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula were "dropped" so that diplomatic rules could be bent in getting clearance for the plane to land.

The M&G previously revealed, with evidence from documents seen in early May, that a request was sent, from the defence attaché at the Indian high commission's office to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), requesting for a plane carrying "VIPs" and "central government ministers" to land at Waterkloof.

These documents show no evidence of the "name-dropping" referred to by Radebe. They also show no reference to the suspended chief of state protocol at the department of international relations, Bruce Koloane, who was suspended, allegedly due to his centrality in the process of approving the landing.

Whatever evidence of name-dropping the directors general uncovered in their week-long investigation, it was not contained in the official communiqués seen by the M&G, and is indicative of behind-the-scenes meddling in the process.

The M&G revealed that, in February this year, a request was made for a plane carrying "central government ministers" to land at Waterkloof in February this year. This letter was sent to the SANDF.

Letters of request
Then, on March 11, the Free State provincial government sent an open-ended invitation for an Indian provincial minister to visit the province on official business at his earliest convenience. This minister was on board the flight that landed at Waterkloof.

On April 4, a letter referring back to the February letter was sent to the SANDF. Presumably, this letter was approved. The plane summarily landed at Waterkloof on April 30 – just in time for Vega Gupta's three-day wedding extravaganza at Sun City.

Government's probe found that in February, around the time the first request for landing was sent to the SANDF, the Gupta family approached the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) "to request landing rights and a reception for the wedding party".

"However, as this would have disrupted operations at OR Tambo International Airport, the request was refused." Radebe said.

The Guptas then approached Mapisa-Nqakula and her adviser on different occasions, and on April 3 this request was also turned down, he said.

'No official note verbale'
The Gupta family then sought the support of an individual in the Indian high commission, who re-designated the wedding entourage as an official delegation to enable them to use the Waterkloof Air Force Base  under the cover of diplomatic privilege.

"It is an undisputed fact that there was no official note verbale from the Indian high commission to the international relations and cooperation department, and therefore due process was not followed," said Radebe.

The documents seen by the M&G concur with this finding.

Radebe said that the full report by the directors general would be released this week. Investigations are continuing in the mean time. But preliminary investigations showed that "a number of transgressions" took place, he said.

But Zuma and his ministers were not involved, Radebe stressed. Indeed, the documents seen by the M&G do not point to official executive interference.

"All affected departments must complete their investigations into this matter as soon as possible to ensure that justice is done, and the required disciplinary measures are fully implemented where deemed necessary," said Radebe.

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Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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