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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More