David Lewis, executive director of the whistleblower organisation said on Tuesday: "To refer to what has happened here as 'name-dropping' is to trivialise a major administrative breakdown, and the doings of a family who clearly are capable of commanding extraordinary privilege based on their relationships with senior public figures … including the president."
The organisation was responding to the findings of a ministerial report on the breaches in protocol and security that allowed the politically-connected Gupta family to land a private jet carrying 270 civilians at Waterkloof Air Force Base on April 30. The passengers were guests at the wedding of Vega Gupta to Aakash Jahajgarhia, held at Sun City in early May.
On Sunday, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe blamed name-dropping for the incident, saying those involved had used the names of the defence minister, transport minister and president to facilitate the landing.
"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," he said.
Radebe said that the department of public service and administration would lead a campaign to discourage the "negative culture of name-dropping".
But Lewis said the problem would not be resolved by the "frankly silly proposal to make name-dropping a disciplinary offence".
Overlooking the real issue
Radebe's solution, he said, overlooked the real issue – a serious breakdown in administration at the highest level.
"How can the public be expected to accept that if a violation of security of this dimension could have been secured by misrepresentation, that the same does not occur in the issuing of licences or tenders or in the range of administrative decisions that are taken on a daily basis by public officials in their engagement with well-resourced private parties and firms. This is the level of mistrust that acts of corruption of this scale generates," he said.
Lewis said Radebe's findings showed a "litany of fraudulent misrepresentation" on the part of people in senior government positions as well as those acting for the Gupta family. This could entail criminal liability and should be investigated, he said.