S Africa officials used Zuma's name in Gupta wedding jet scandal

  • AFP, Pretoria
  • |
  • Updated: May 19, 2013 21:30 IST

South African officials used President Jacob Zuma's name to secure landing rights at a military air base to fly in guests for a lavish wedding hosted by a well-connected Indian family, a probe showed on Sunday.

According to preliminary findings of the investigation, the Gupta family had been denied permission to land their chartered jet at the OR Tambo International airport because the elaborate reception they planned for their nearly 200 guests would have disrupted normal operations.

The family then turned to an Indian diplomat who wrongly told his diplomatic contacts that the wedding party was an official delegation, the report said.

The private jet was then cleared to land at the Waterkloof military base "based on false information and abuse of privileges", according to the findings by a panel of ministers tasked with investigating last month's incident, which has become a major embarrassment for the South African government.

The probe found that Zuma himself was not involved in the case but that his name, and those of the defence and transport ministers, had been used to manipulate events.

"The issue of name-dropping in this instance has been established," said justice minister Jeff Radebe.

"The airforce landing of the chartered commercial flight was a direct result of (a) manipulation of processes," he added.

The wealthy Gupta family, which has close ties with Zuma and the ruling ANC party, has issued a public apology for the scandal.

The case has drawn widespread condemnation, with Zuma facing allegations of cronyism from political foes and rare public rebukes from his allies.

A senior South African diplomat and several police officers have been suspended for their role in allowing the aircraft to land at the restricted base.

Bollywood stars and politicians were among the guests attending the nuptials of Vega Gupta, a niece of the powerful Gupta brothers who own several companies including Sahara Computers and the pro-government New Age newspaper.

The party was also granted a full police escort to the Sun City resort for the four-day affair billed as "the wedding of the year".


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