The controversy-plagued Gupta family wedding became mired in further controversy on Thursday when Cosatu in the North West levelled racism claims against guests attending the event at Sun City.
The wealthy and politically connected Gupta family triggered a storm of fury when a plane carrying wedding guests landed at the Waterkoof Air Force Base, a national key point, ostensibly without authorisation from the SANDF.
“Cosatu is informed that the family does not want to be served by the African staff members who are employed in the resort,” the union federation said.
“The guests demand that their services must be rendered by white personnel, starting from the cleaning of their rooms, the cooking and the drivers of the shuttles they use,” it said.
“Cosatu has been informed that the family is under police protection while they are at the resort and all their trips have police escorts using state vehicles.
“For us as Cosatu this is racism at its worst and this cannot be allowed to continue to take place in a country where racism is a crime.
“At Sun City our members have been facing racial attitudes from some of the service providers such as the 24/7 security company with which we have an outstanding case, as we have with Sun City,” the union said.
“It also cannot be allowed that people who are on a private trip are provided with state security while in the country, and this applies only to this family and not to all the foreign visitors who come and visit our country.”
Cosatu said it was convinced there was a link between the private jet of the Guptas landing at the air force base and the use of police as their escorts.
“This can only mean that this has been authorised somewhere in the security departments of the country, as we believe that the members of the police services take directives from their superiors.”
The federation called on “the government to stop using state resources for private business”.
It also called on all members of the police services who had been “deployed to protect the Guptas to be withdrawn with immediate effect”.
Gupta wedding spokesman Haranath Ghosh denied the family was using police escorts during the four-day wedding extravaganza.
He also rejected the allegations of racism with “the contempt they deserve”.
“The wedding guests are cosmopolitan and made up of all races,” he said.
Meanwhile, the family’s use of Waterkloof Air Force Base has led to investigations by the SANDF, the SAPS, Sars and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco).
While the first official was suspended on Thursday – Dirco’s chief of state protocol ambassador Vusi Bruce Koloane – it has become clear that several departments and government entities were involved in authorising the landing and subsequent blue-light convoy.
These included Dirco, Defence, the SAPS, Home Affairs – which issued visas – and possibly the Department of Transport’s aviation entities. Defence spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini said the SANDF’s investigations would hopefully uncover which officials breached laws when they allowed the Guptas access to the base. “We haven’t reached that stage, it’s too early. That’s what we’re trying to find out. Those are who we’re looking for. That’s what our investigation will tell us.”
SA National Defence Union secretary Pikkie Greeff said the main law that could have been breached was the National Key Points Act, which carried punishments of up to 25 years in jail.
“It states that you can’t be at such a place without the correct permission. It’s a kind of trespassing under the Defence Act,” said Greeff. “The Defence Act has options of a fine, while the National Key Points Act has more serious consequences.”
The Sars and customs breaches were also “more serious”, Greeff said. Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said the landing of the airliner at the base had been “an unfortunate incident”.
“Steps will be taken to deal with the matter,” Chabane told a media briefing in Pretoria.
The SANDF and the Department of International Relations would investigate the matter and take “appropriate action”, Chabane said.
The landing of the airliner at the air force base was not a cabinet matter but a protocol issue, he said.
“We have a situation which has to be dealt with.”
On why the police’s VIP unit was used to escort the guests to Sun City, near Rustenburg, Chabane said the police service had to be approached in this regard.
“Police should be able to clarify this matter,” said Chabane.
He said as far as he could determine, all the passengers on the airliner had valid visas and passports.
Chabane said Zuma had not attended the wedding. He promised action against wrongdoers in the incident, but could not yet say whether there had been an abuse of diplomatic privilege by the Indian High Commission.