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Independent Gupta probe is needed - DA

The Jet Airways Airbus A330-200 chartered by the Gupta family. File photo: Phill Magakoe

The Jet Airways Airbus A330-200 chartered by the Gupta family. File photo: Phill Magakoe

Published May 20, 2013

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Johannesburg - It comes as no surprise that President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet were exonerated from the landing saga of a civilian plane at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

“From the start, the investigation into the landing... was a carefully crafted damage-control exercise designed to protect Zuma and members of his Cabinet from the political fallout,” said DA MP David Maynier.

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“The scope of the investigation must include the role played by President Zuma and members of his Cabinet.”

He said an independent investigation into the controversial plane landing was needed by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

A plane chartered by the Gupta family, carrying 270 wedding guests, landed at the base last month.

Guests were attending the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, and Indian-born Aakash Jahajgarhia at Sun City.

The landing sparked widespread criticism. Several government ministers initiated an investigation into a possible breach of diplomatic protocol.

On Sunday, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said Zuma and his Cabinet had no involvement in the landing. Radebe said one of the findings of the investigation was that the landing was a direct result of manipulation of processes. He said names had been “dropped” during the course of the probe - including that of Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Transport Minister Ben Martins and Zuma.

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He said the aircraft was cleared for landing and the correct clearance procedures were followed. But this was based on false information and abuse of privileges, by a group who acted in common purpose.

The investigation found that the wealthy Gupta family had resorted to using diplomatic channels when it failed to get landing rights from ministers and the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa).

Freedom Front Plus spokesman Pieter Groenewald demanded that decisive action be taken. He said Radebe's statement that false information and abuse of privileges led to the landing amounted to fraud.

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“The guilty should be named and prosecuted. The fact that false information led to the correct landing procedures being followed creates a serious void in the process which has to be followed to allow airplanes to land,” he said in a statement.

“It does not matter whether Waterkloof is a national key point or not... The fact is that Waterkloof is a military air force base and is therefore a security area and a serious security breach took place.”

Radebe said earlier the base was not a national key point.

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On Sunday, the Gupta family said it had only wanted to hold a memorable wedding, but realised that some bad decisions could have been made in the process.

“Perhaps some misjudgments may have been made,” family spokesman Gary Naidoo said in a statement. He said the report shed some light on the matter and the family would wait for the release of the full report.

The full ministers' report is expected to be made public during the course of next week.

“We wish to once again re-iterate our apology for any embarrassment or inconvenience caused by the landing of the aircraft,” said Naidoo. - Sapa

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