News / Africa

4 Officials Suspended in S. Africa's Widening Gupta Scandal

Photo courtesy of Eye Witness News (EWN) shows Gauteng Flying Squad vehicle waiting to escort Gupta wedding guests to Sun City, Waterkloof Airforce Base, near Pretoria, April 30, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Eye Witness News (EWN) shows Gauteng Flying Squad vehicle waiting to escort Gupta wedding guests to Sun City, Waterkloof Airforce Base, near Pretoria, April 30, 2013.
Reuters
South Africa suspended four top security officials on Friday, including two brigadier generals, in a widening scandal over a plane chartered by a family with close ties to President Jacob Zuma using an air force base without proper permission.

The affair - dubbed "Guptagate" after the influential Indian-born Gupta family - has transfixed South Africa since the private flight landed at Pretoria's Waterkloof Air Force base on Tuesday with nearly 200 guests for a lavish family wedding.

It has also shone an uncomfortable spotlight on Zuma's relationship with Gupta brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh, whose South African business empire stretches from mining and resources to aviation and technology.

In a news conference attended by six cabinet ministers, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe promised to find out how the plane was allowed to land at the base, one of South Africa's most important military sites.

"There was no executive authority granted for this plane to land. That is the bottom line "Radebe said. "whatever permission was there was an unauthorized one."

The scandal has ranged from farce - border officials had to interrupt the four-day wedding at the luxurious Sun City resort to get guests to fill in belated customs forms - to a potentially serious diplomatic incident.

A top foreign ministry bureaucrat who helped secure landing rights from Waterkloof commanders has already been suspended, and Indian High Commission officials who went directly to the base commanders for landing permits are also in trouble.

"It is not normal that an official at an embassy goes to a government entity and starts soliciting permits," Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told journalists.

She is due to meet the Indian ambassador on Friday.

"Due courtesies"

India said no protocols had been breached and that the plane was carrying politicians from the Samajwadi Party, a regional ally of the Delhi government led by prominent national politician Mulayam Singh.

"Whenever senior government functionaries travel, we request due courtesies from the local authorities and in this instance too the same practice was followed," foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.

So far, the episode has failed to suck in Zuma, who missed the wedding due to a state visit to the Republic of Congo, but it is seen as another example of the influence-peddling and cronyism that the president's critics say has become endemic since he came to power in 2009.

Two of Zuma's children have served as directors of a number of Gupta companies, according to South Africa's companies database, and the family is a major financial backer of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

"This is bigger than whether or not the bags were searched.

"It tells us who we are," Johannesburg's Star newspaper said in an editorial. "If you have money and friends in powerful places, you can do as you wish."

In addition to the suspended base commanders, Radebe said two policemen had been arrested for moonlighting as private security guards in the luxury car convoy that took the wedding guests from the airbase to Sun City.

The police have also opened a criminal case against a Pretoria car hire firm for the illegal use of flashing 'blue lights' in the suite of BMWs in the convoy.

The plane, an Airbus 330-200 owned by India's Jet Airways, has been moved from Waterkloof to Johannesburg's OR Tambo international airport.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid