The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) denied media reports on Wednesday that there was a second investigation into the landing of the Gupta family’s private aircraft at the Waterkloof Air Force Base.
“It is not true,” said SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga. “I don’t know anything about that.”
The Sowetan quoted Mabanga as saying an additional investigation was under way, and another was pending. But Mabanga denied speaking to the Sowetan reporter.
According to the newspaper, he said: “The charges against one accused were withdrawn due to insufficient evidence. An application to consider charges against an additional accused was forwarded to the director of military prosecutions for consideration. The decision is pending.”
The Afrikaans daily newspaper, Beeld, reported that a search for more information about the plane’s landing was under way, because there was not enough evidence for the military court.
The director of military prosecutions had reportedly asked for supplementary affidavits and information from the South African Air Force (SAAF) to strengthen the case against the only two remaining accused, lieutenant colonels Christine Anderson and Stefan van Zyl.
The previous investigation against them and Warrant Officer Thabo Ntshisi had been dealt with and referred to military prosecutors for a decision on prosecution and a trial date, which had not been set.
Beeld reported that Ntshisi became a state witness to strengthen the case after only a “watered-down” charge of violating an airforce instruction about private planes remained. The two would have been charged with corruption, conspiracy and fraud.
Their lawyer, Jean Griessel, said he had not been informed of new developments. They have been on compulsory leave for eight months.
A chartered commercial aircraft, Jet Airways flight JAI 9900 from India, ferrying more than 200 guests to the wedding of Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia, landed at the base in April.
The passengers were then transported, either by light aircraft, helicopter or in police-escorted vehicles, to the ceremony at Sun City’s Palace of the Lost City in North West.
The landing sparked widespread criticism and several investigations were launched. A government investigation exonerated President Jacob Zuma and his ministers, and found that the landing was the result of “collusion by officials”.
In October, Colonel Nomsa Khumalo, Van Zyl, Anderson and Ntshisi appeared in a military court at the Thaba Tshwane military base in Pretoria. They were charged but a trial date was not set. It was not immediately clear what the outcome of the case against Khumalo was. – Sapa