Guptagate: Parties not on same plane

South Africa
Cabinet ministers say they’re not to blame for the national security breach at Waterkloof Air Force Base. They’re adamant that no member of the executive granted permission for the plane carrying guests of the Gupta family to land. eNCA

Johannesburg - The African National Congress on Friday issued a statement welcoming the preliminary report of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) into the irregular landing of a civilian aircraft at the Waterkloof Airforce Base.

"While we would have preferred government to have responded and intervened earlier, we nonetheless commend the decisive measures taken to date on this matter and call for the speedy conclusion of all investigations against the identified officials," the ANC said.

Addressing the media on Friday, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said “government would like to assure the South African public that no stone will be left unturned to ensure that we get to the bottom of this matter, and hold all those responsible for bringing our country into disrepute - whoever they are and whatever position they hold.”

Radebe announced that government had on Friday suspended four officials in connection with the Guptagate debacle. Chief of State Protocol, Ambassador Bruce Koloane was suspended earlier in the week.

The ANC said: "We condemn the blatant disregard of official state security and diplomatic protocols such as in the use of false number plates and blue lights by private citizens and welcome the criminal charges laid against those responsible."

The party then called upon the government to act speedily in dealing with any diplomatic breach of protocols by the Indian government.

However, the official opposition had a different view. The Democratic Alliance said the press conference was "an exercise in damage control designed to 'firewall' President Jacob Zuma and members of his Cabinet from the political fallout.

"The key message at the press conference – which was repeated by virtually every minister present - was that 'no executive authority was granted for the plane to land.'

"The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has stated that she did not authorise the landing and, to her credit, in fact rejected an earlier request for the aircraft to land at AFB Waterkloof.
 
 "However, it is hard to believe that not one minister or deputy-minister in six departments knew anything about the request for the Guptas’ jet to land at AFB Waterkloof," the party said in a statement.
 
Meanwhile, the South African National Defence Union (SANDU) took particular issue with the fact that one of the suspended members, Lieutenant Colonel Anderson, is merely a Movements Officer at the military base in question. 
 
"She could not in any conceivable way have played any part in the seeming unlawful permission of the landing of the infamous Gupta guests plane.
 
"The sole duties of the officer in question have absolutely nothing to do with authorisation of any form of air traffic movement whatsoever," the union said, adding that her main function is "facilitating the directing of embarking and disembarking of passengers and crew to the designated areas within the base".
 

"She does this under orders from her higher command structures. She has no executive powers of any nature.

"To make matters worse, the officer in question had today learned of her suspension through the media and has not yet even been formally informed of same," the union's statement released after the JCPS press briefing said. 

Meanwhile, Zuma's office yesterday issued a statement welcoming the probe and urging all affected parties to cooperate fully with the investigation.

"The investigation and the manner in which this matter is handled should not be allowed to impact negatively on the warm and friendly historical relations that exist between the Governments of the Republic of South and the Republic of India" the statement read.

-eNCA

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