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Guptagate: It’s too little too late

Staff at Sun City bid farewell to the bridal couple " Aakash Jahajgarhia and Vega Gupta (centre) " as they leave the Palace of the Lost City.

Staff at Sun City bid farewell to the bridal couple " Aakash Jahajgarhia and Vega Gupta (centre) " as they leave the Palace of the Lost City.

Published May 5, 2013

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We are supposed to be happy that the government has responded in the bold manner it has to the national security breach and abuse of state resources by guests to the Gupta wedding.

We should be comfortable and sleep well at night because action has been taken and heads have begun to roll long after the horse has bolted from the stable.

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Not good enough, I say.

Can you imagine if the Airbus 330 which landed illegally at a national key point was carrying passengers who were not guests to a wedding but a gang on a mission to hurt South Africans?

The government’s response to this national security crisis, impressive as it was, was a little bit too late. It was like the response of the US government after the two aeroplanes had crashed into the Twin Towers in downtown New York, killing citizens and causing massive damage to the infrastructure and national psyche.

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International Relations Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane made bold and declared that “our systems work”. She uttered this self-praise to give credit to the speed with which the government was able to establish how the breach in security had happened and who the responsible parties were.

Well, truth is, if the systems worked, we would not be where we are today. If the systems worked, the security breach would not have taken place. The plane loaded with passengers who were allowed into the country, carrying whatever was in their luggage, would not have landed.

If our systems worked, the diplomatic incident that now threatens to sour relations between India and South Africa would not have taken place.

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There is no doubt that this scandal, which borders on treason, has caused an embarrassment to our government and its Indian counterparts.

And government resources are, instead of being used to improve the lives of South Africans, being used to save face.

It was well and good for the bevy of cabinet ministers, directors-general, including the national commissioner of police General Riah Phiyega, to stand before television cameras and account to the nation.

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The reassurances from Jeff Radebe, the leading minister in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster, hit the right note.

However, it was, as I said, too little too late. Good systems work only if they prevent these sort of scandals from taking place.

Perhaps the words of ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, whose first reaction sparked action and the domino effect that led to the suspension of at least five government officials, the arrest of two police officers and the establishment of a top level inquiry, represented a rare occasion when someone spoke out against developments in an ANC government.

This development, politically, raises a number of questions about relations between the ANC and the Gupta family.

At a time when many were running for cover because the family involved in the security bridge is close to President Jacob Zuma, Mantashe issued a strongly-worded statement, followed by many radio and television interviews.

Mantashe’s act should give us hope that, in the eyes of the ANC, that which is wrong remains wrong, no matter who is involved and irrespective of their political proximity to the political elite.

There have been instances when the ANC leadership kept quiet when developments in the country demanded them to speak out and reassure everyone that the pillars of our democracy remain intact.

We will know, at least we hope we will, a lot more in the next five days than we do now about how this national security breach took place. This will be when the findings of the investigations carried out by the directors-general are reported to the nation.

As all these developments unfold, one thing is missing.

A national security violation has occurred and our head of state – Zuma – has not uttered a word.

He is said to be upset about the developments. He is also said to have welcomed a probe that he should have, as our fearless leader, instituted in the first place.

There are times when the president of a country must reassure the nation that he leads. South Africans now need to hear Zuma, feel his anger, if there is one, and hear his reassurances that our sovereignty and nationhood will be safeguarded, at all costs.

Sunday Independent

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