Opposition denounces Gupta ‘whitewash’Comment on this story
Parliament, Cape Town - Government released the full report on the Gupta scandal on Wednesday amid a parliamentary debate in which the opposition blamed the president personally for the incident, saying he should pay for it at the polls next year.
The 30-page report exonerates President Jacob Zuma and his ministers and finds that the landing of the plane, chartered by the Guptas, at the Waterkloof Air Force Base was the result of “manipulation by a few”.
These included the wealthy family, members of the Indian High Commission, suspended government chief of protocol Bruce Koloane, and a senior Waterkloof official.
But the findings were dismissed as a “whitewash” by one opposition speaker after the other, in a heated debate in the National Assembly that provided a foretaste of the 2014 election campaign.
Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier argued Defence Minister Mapisa Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula should be fired for failing to inform senior officials that she had refused the Gupta family use of the air base.
But, he added, “the root cause of the problem, which led to 'Guptagate', is President Jacob Zuma”.
Maynier charged that Zuma's friendships with the Shaik, Reddy, and Gupta families had created “the culture of undue influence”, highlighted in the government probe into last month's landing at Waterkloof, which exasperated even the ruling party.
“In the end, if we really want to ensure that something like this never happens again, then we have to come together in our thousands, we have to come together in our tens of thousands, we have to come together in our millions and - together - 'fire' President Jacob Zuma on election day in 2014.”
He made fun of a statement by Justice Minister Jeff Radebe - backed up by the government probe - that no Cabinet minister knew about plans for a plane carrying 270 Gupta wedding guests to land at the air base on April 30.
“Well, the fact is nobody believes that not one minister knew anything about:three fixed-wing aircraft; seven helicopters; 88 vehicles; and490 personnel Ä 194 of them being state employees Ä supporting a private function from AFB Waterkloof.”
Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota echoed that it was inconceivable that mere “name-dropping” had been enough to secure the Gupta plane a Waterkloof landing.
And United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa suggested that it was not the first time the Gupta family had used Waterkloof, but the first time this abuse had come to light.
ANC MPs rejected the attack on the ruling party and Zuma - who was absent from the National Assembly Ä as glib electioneering.
Radebe said government had decided to release the report both to the public and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela “in the spirit of transparency and our desire to bring this matter to a satisfactory closure”.
Madonsela asked for a copy of the report before deciding whether to agree to a request by the DA to launch her own investigation.
Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor accused the DA of undermining the standing of Madonsela's office by pressing her to conduct another probe in the hope of harming the ANC and the president .
“Members of the opposition are consumed by their hatred of President Jacob Zuma and unable to look objectively, rationally at an issue if it provides an opportunity to throw stones at our president.
“If the report does not find Zuma guilty, they are unable to accept it.”
The government investigation Ä done in seven days by a committee of directors-general Ä confirmed that 194 government personnel were involved in the landing and escorting the Gupta guests to a family wedding at Sun City.
It found that irregular clearance for the landing was obtained under “false pretences, as a result of the manipulation of the process” by the Gupta family, individuals in the Indian High Commission, Koloane and Waterkloof's officer commanding movement control Lt-Col Christine Anderson.
After the defence minister turned down a request by the Guptas to use Waterkloof in March, the family turned to the High Commission, according to the report.
An Indian diplomat then directly approach the Air Force Command Post, the report said, stressing that “it is an undisputed fact that there was no note verbale from the Indian High Commission to the department of international relations and co-operation, and therefore due process was not followed”.
It likewise found that the national police commissioner had not been briefed about the operation, and that police officers who provided escort for the guests were moonlighting.
The report concluded that it was heartening that many government employees had questioned the events, but said their objections were swept aside by more senior colleagues. It accused Koloane and Anderson of a serious dereliction of duty.
“Their activities also indicate the bringing to bear of undue influence on state officials, systems, equipment, and infrastructure.” - Sapa