Bloomberg News

India Probed as Zuma’s Friends Use Airbase for Wedding Party (1)

May 02, 2013

South Africa is investigating if the Indian High Commission abused diplomatic privilege after a civilian Airbus carrying guests to the wedding of the Gupta family, which has been linked to President Jacob Zuma, was allowed to land at a military base.

“The investigations will point out to us if that is the case,” Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane told reporters in Pretoria today. “If so, the necessary steps will be taken. This is a serious matter.”

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation suspended its Chief of State Protocol Ambassador Bruce Koloane. The government is probing how permission was granted for guests of the wedding of Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia to land at the Waterkloof Air force base, near Pretoria, on April 30, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement today.

The Guptas, an Indian family that has been doing business in South Africa since 1993, own Sahara Computers and The New Age newspaper. They were part of a group including Zuma’s son, Duduzane, that sought 800 million rand ($90 million) for a mining right disputed by Anglo American Plc (AAL) unit Kumba Iron Ore. (KIO) Members of the family also control Shiva Uranium Ltd.

Zuma has been a friend of the Gupta family for about a decade, Atul Gupta said in an interview with Johannesburg-based Daily Maverick in 2011. Zuma won’t attend the wedding, Chabane said.

Police Escort

The African National Congress “will never rest where there is any indication that all and sundry may be permitted to undermine the republic, its citizens and its borders,” the ruling party said in a statement on April 30.

Unlike other visitors, the family received police escorts using state resources in South Africa, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, an ANC ally, said in an e-mailed statement today.

“It is an absolute insult to the people of South Africa that private individuals can use a public facility for their social activities and that state officials should escort them,” Cosatu said.

Police officials may have violated regulations when they gave VIP protection when escorting guests to Sun City, the resort where the wedding is being held, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said today in an e-mailed statement. The police has started its own investigation into the incident, he said.

Full Permission

The air force base, on the outskirts of the capital city, is classified as a “national key point” and access is restricted to government and military officials. Sun City is about 150 kilometers (90 miles) west of Waterkloof.

“Waterkloof Air Force base was used with full permission of the authorities to receive foreign dignitaries including some ministers,” Haranath Ghosh, a spokesman for the Gupta wedding, said in an e-mailed statement today.

While “no executive authority” was given to land the plane at the base, it’s clear that some officials gave clearance for the flight, the Department of International Relations said.

The Indian High Commissioner made the request after a bid by Sahara was refused, the Department of Defense said in an e- mailed statement today.

No one at the High Commission in Pretoria was available to comment when called by Bloomberg News.

To contact the reporters on this story: Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net; Kamlesh Bhuckory in Johannesburg at kbhuckory@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net


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