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Did President Jacob Zuma lie to the nation about his involvement in the “Guptagate” saga? That is the question the DA wants answered after fresh allegations emerged that Zuma may have been aware of the landing of the Gupta family at the Waterkloof Air Force Base earlier this year.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko has now called on Parliament and the public protector to probe the president over the “Guptagate” scandal.
Zuma has been implicated, for the first time under oath, in the controversial landing of Gupta family wedding guests at Waterkloof earlier this year.
Zuma’s alleged involvement in Guptagate emerged at the SANDF’s Thaba Tshwane satellite legal office in a preliminary investigation against Lieutenant-Colonel Christine Anderson – one of five officers facing court martial in the aftermath of the landing saga.
On Thursday, the Presidency dismissed claims that Zuma knew about Waterkloof landing as an “old allegation” based on hearsay.
In April, a chartered plane landed at Waterkloof carrying hundreds of guests to attend the wedding of the Gupta brothers’ niece at Sun City.
Anderson has been on special leave pending an investigation into her involvement.
If she is court martialled, she could be drummed out of the air force and lose her pension, or perhaps even be jailed.
Anderson’s affidavit submitted in the preliminary probe claims Zuma met Vusi Bruce Koloane – the head of state protocol who was also placed on leave in the ensuing investigation into the saga – to discuss the plane’s landing at the air base.
According to reports, Anderson submitted an affidavit admitting that on April 17 she received a call from Koloane informing her that Zuma wanted to know “if everything is still on track for the flight”.
“This flies in the face of almost every denial which senior members of cabinet have issued since the saga broke earlier this year,” said Mazibuko.
She said she would on Friday take “a number of immediate steps” to ensure that Zuma answers to fresh allegations, “under oath”, that he was directly involved.
“The seriousness of these latest revelations not only brings into question the ethical conduct of the president, who is now alleged to have abused public resources and institutions on the basis of personal relationships, but also indicates that he could have been part of a cover-up of significant proportions,” she added.
On Thursday, Anderson said Koloane asked her if everything was in place to allow the plane to land, under instruction from “Number One (Zuma)”.
The affidavit goes on to say Zuma had been referred to as “Number One” for security reasons.
On Thursday morning, Anderson said she was unaware that this information had emerged.
“I don’t say that didn’t occur (Zuma’s involvement), but that wasn’t mentioned yesterday (Wednesday),” she said.
However, the spokesman for the SA National Defence Union Pikkie Greeff – who is an advocate also representing Anderson in the investigation – said Zuma’s involvement was mentioned in their affidavit, which was submitted more than a week ago.
“I think because it’s the first proof under oath that someone mentions Zuma that is causing this media frenzy,” Greeff said.
On Thursday, the ANC chief whip’s office said Parliament and the public protector should not be dragged into political games.
“The team of directors-general who investigated the incident…looked at these same allegations she, Mazibuko, talks about and found that names of senior government leaders were dropped by certain individuals to facilitate the unauthorised landing,” it said.
“The story of a colonel alleging to have been instructed by another official who claims to have been instructed by a government leader to act in a certain manner is a typical name-dropping narrative that the investigation has already dealt with.”
The office said the DA was rehashing an old story and was trying to sell it as a fresh allegation.
“As the ANC, we will not allow Parliament to be dragged into what is clearly a figment of one MP’s overzealous imagination. For her to expect Parliament to expend its energies on such a matter is illustrative of how little she regards this institution.”
Other opposition parties have also reacted to the reports, with the Economic Freedom Fighters calling on Zuma to be held accountable in terms of law. “Innocent military officers have been severely punished, even facing expulsion from the service because we are being told they acted on their own in putting the country at risk and its protocols in disrepute,” said spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
He said the EFF took “serious exception” to a president “who lies on a matter of national security, putting the lives of our military officers at risk and deserts them when he knows he is at fault”.
Freedom Front Plus defence spokesman Pieter Groenewald said to determine whether the reports were true, Koloane should undergo a lie-detector test.
“It is significant that Koloane was only demoted and not dismissed. The question is if he is merely being ‘sacrificed’ for Zuma, will he be richly rewarded for it at a later stage?” said Groenewald.