Johannesburg - The Indian High Commission was given permission to land a privately-chartered plane at Waterkloof Air Force Base, its high commissioner said on Thursday.
“Clearance and authorisations were received for the landing of the plane... almost three weeks before the actual landing,” Virendra Gupta told reporters in Johannesburg.
He is not related to the Gupta family, which chartered the plane to carry guests to South Africa for a family wedding at Sun City, in North West. The Guptas own The New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers.
“An application was indeed made by the high commission at the end of February, and this was done in the view of the fact that ministers and several high-level political dignitaries were going to be on board the plane, and security is one of the most paramount considerations for us.”
He said the commission communicated through its defence adviser with the chief of defence for foreign relations in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
“This is a standard channel of communication prescribed by the government of South Africa, with regards to communications from all defence advisers in the country.”
The government said on Friday that the landing at the national key point was unauthorised and that a government probe was underway into a possible breach of diplomatic protocol.
The jet was moved off the base last Thursday afternoon, amid widespread criticism by, among others, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, the African National Congress, the Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, and the SA Communist Party.
Gupta was speaking at a briefing on the IndiaAfrica festival, to be held in Johannesburg between May 13 and 24. He denied that the festival had been planned to take place soon after the Gupta wedding.
“This festival was planned a long time ago,” he said.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe announced on Friday that five high-ranking officials and military personnel had been suspended over the unauthorised landing.
They were: the Chief of State Protocol ambassador Bruce Koloane; SA Air Force command post Brig-Gen L Lombard; Air Force Base Brig-Gen TS Madumane; Movement Control Officer Lt-Col C Anderson; and Gauteng deputy provincial police commissioner Maj-Gen Phumza Gela.
In addition, two metro police officers and a reservist had been arrested for working for a security company that provided an escort from the base to the wedding venue.
He said the government had no record of a note verbale - an unsigned diplomatic communication prepared in the third person - from the high commission notifying the international relations department of a visiting delegation requiring diplomatic help, aircraft clearance, and landing rights.
“The defence attache of the Indian High Commission sent a request for aircraft clearance directly to the Air Force Command Unit within the SANDF on April 4,” he said.
“The SA Air Force consulted with the Office of State Protocol at 1/8the department 3/8 and facilitated the clearance of the aircraft without informing the Chief of the SANDF.”
Radebe revealed the Jet Airways Airbus A330 did not have a foreign operator's permit.
The SA Civil Aviation Authority said it had fined the operator of the A330 for violating civil aviation regulations. - Sapa