Top South African government functionaries are facing credibility questions after it was discovered that an Indian influential family was granted an executive permission to land a jet without the knowledge of the South African Airport Authority.
The privilege was described as an abuse of national apparatus and an invasion of the rights and privacy of the people of south Africa.
The accusation has brewed as Gupta family, an influential India/South Africa family flew guests, reportedly including Bollywood stars and Indian government officials, to South Africa for a wedding. The jet landed without permission of the Military base officials and those in power that has direct connection to the base. who could have issued authorisation.
The family has denied any wrong-doing.
Already, five high-ranking government officials in South Africa have been suspended as the government investigates security breaches during the society wedding.
The justice minister said three police officers had also been arrested.
South Africa’s government has commenced investigation with an allegation that the Indian embassy abused diplomatic privileges because over a society wedding, an official has said.
The embassy is alleged to have helped a wealthy Indian family gain landing rights for a private jet at a military base near the capital, Pretoria.
The famous Guptas family’s arrival for a wedding in South Africa had developed to a major diplomatic row after their private jet was allowed to land at Waterkloof Air base which is regarded as a national key-point in nation’s security.
South African Press had exposed the executive privilege but the government has denied any knowledge of the privilege, making the accusation more worse and causing a major perception that the family if not given the clearance by government officials may have contemptuously bullied the nation because of its enormous influence.
The Gupta brothers – Atul, Ajay and Rajesh – are said have wielded enormous influence in South Africa since white minority rule ended in 1994.
Their business interests cover mining, aviation, technology and the media.
Two of President Jacob Zuma’s children have served as directors of Gupta-owned firms, according to South Africa’s companies database, the AFP news agency reported.
The ANC Youth League on Thursday described the controversial landing of the family aircraft at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria as an “invasion of the country”.
It joined a chorus of political parties and organisations which condemned what has been dubbed “Guptagate”.
To add salt on the injury of contempt of the illegal jet landing and psychological bullying accusation, it emerged on Friday that the family had refused to be served by officials of the Wedding venue hotel who are black skinned.
The racism stance currently doing rounds across the World has angered Cosatu in the province.
As it was confirmed that Gupta family refuse to be served by Africans at Sun City where the wedding took place.
Cosatu secretary-general in North West, Solly Phetoe told ETV news desk that the filthy rich Gupta family brought their on chefs and all whites and Indians.
“According to reports received employees at Sun City superbowl are not allowed to serve the Gupta family as they brought in their chefs and all those who are serving them are either whites or Indians” Phetoe said.
The ANCYL commended President Jacob Zuma for not attending the wedding.
“We seek answers from the ANC-led government on how it is that national security was breached in such a callous manner, disrespecting the people and laws of our country,” the league said in a statement.
“We call upon all progressive South Africans, particularly ANC leaders and deployees in government who were invited to the wedding to follow President Zuma’s example, as their attendance will be viewed as condoning this security breach.”
The league said this was a case of gross negligence and misconduct. Those responsible should be exposed, dismissed, arrested and prosecuted.
“We join the African National Congress in calling for an explanation on this matter and for heads to roll for those who allowed that plane to land at our military base, a national key point.”
Earlier on Thursday, it emerged that government remained in the dark over who allowed the chartered jet to land at the base.
Those angered included the ANC, DA, IFP, Cosatu, and SA Communist Party.
They called it an abuse of state resources which put the country at risk. The wealthy and politically-connected Gupta family landed wedding guests at the base on Tuesday morning. The wedding will spread over four days.
Briefing journalists on the fortnightly Cabinet meeting, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said high-level investigations into the matter were underway. The inquiries – by the departments of international relations and defence, and the SA Revenue Service (Sars) – would seek to find whether diplomatic privilege had been abused.
Chabane said he was not aware of dignitaries aboard the plane and whether a police escort was provided from the base to the wedding venue, Sun City, North West.
“I’m not aware of the reason why the escort was provided… escorts are provided for soccer teams,” he said.
On reports that the wedding guests from India were in the country illegally, Chabane said the group would have had to show they had visas. The guests, however, had avoided paying customs duties.
Sars was not told of guests arriving at the base, meaning no customs officials were sent there, spokesman Adrian Lackay said.
Reports suggest invited guests to the multi-million-rand affair included President Jacob Zuma, government ministers, Indian ministers and other dignitaries.
Chabane said he would also not be attending the Gupta nuptials.
Asked about the attendance of South African government ministers at the wedding and whether this was connected to the plane arriving at Waterkloof, Chabane said: “I would say many people received invites to attend, and I don’t think it has a direct line… (to) a minister attending and the events which surround the plane (landing) at Waterkloof.”
Earlier on Thursday the international relations department said the Chief of State Protocol, ambassador Bruce Koloane, had been placed on suspension while it conducted its investigation into the use of the base.
The Gupta family, which owns The New Age newspaper and Sahara, is celebrating the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, to Indian-born Aakash Jahajgarhia.
As in South Africa, the Guptas seem well connected to politicians in India, with some of their connections also no strangers to controversy.
The Indian High Commission in South Africa is being coy about who the Indian politicians are who flew into Waterkloof Air Force Base near Pretoria on Tuesday on a chartered aircraft with about 300 wedding guests on board.
The guests were bound for the lavish Sun City nuptials of Vega Gupta – the daughter of Achla Gupta and sister of the ANC-affiliated Gupta brothers – to Aakash Jahajgarhia.
The Indian deputy high commissioner, Armstrong Changsan, would only say he believed three government ministers were among the guests, possibly from a provincial government rather than the national government.
The Times of India reported on Tuesday that the government ministers aboard the aircraft were from the government of the state of Uttar Pradesh and included urban development minister Azam Khan, parliamentary speaker Mata Prasad Pandey and public works minister Shivpal Singh Yadav.
It said President Ram Baran Yadav of Nepal had also been invited. None of these names could be confirmed.
-With Agency Reports