Gupta airline fined R80 000 for landing at Waterkloof

Cape Town – The probe into the landing of a commercial airliner at Waterkloof Air Force Base has revealed a number of transgressions made by officials, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe, said today, adding that investigations would continue.

Briefing the media in Pretoria today on the findings of the investigating team the government set up to look into the landing of a Jet Airways airplane at Waterkloof Air Force Base on April 30, Radebe said the report will be released during the course of this week.

A Jet Airways plane takes off. One of the company's planes landed illegally at Waterkloof air force base. Pic: Timothy Dauber
A Jet Airways plane takes off. One of the company’s planes landed illegally at Waterkloof air force base. Pic: Timothy Dauber

He said he couldn’t name any officials or anyone under investigation as these were with investigating authorities, but pointed out that the process of disciplinary hearings would continue to determine whether any officials were guilty or not.

“All affected departments must complete their investigations into this matter as soon as possible to ensure that justice is done, and the required disciplinary measures are fully implemented where deemed necessary,” he said.

He added that a number of transgressions were made, and that those who made them must be brought to book.

These transgressions included, among other things, failure to apply for renewal of a firearms licence, fraud and the conducting of security service by private security guards.

He said the blue light brigade that ferried Gupta wedding guests to Sun City had received the right authorisation, but that the brigade had contained police that were moonlighting.

Added to this, some metro police officers broke the law by carrying their weapons outside of their respective metro and by having vehicles that were fitted illegally with blue lights.

Five police cases had already been lodged and Radebe anticipated that more cases would be lodged as investigations proceed.

To address violations stemming from the landing of the Waterkloof flight, government departments had imposed fines and were taking corrective action.

“This includes the imposition of a fine of R80 000 for the failure of the pilot of Flight JAI9900 to obtain a Foreign Operators Permit,” he said. 

He said the landing of flight JAI 9900 at Waterkloof had also brought to the fore serious issues that need immediate attention, including the identified culture of undue influence, underpinned by poor ethical conduct and a lack of professionalism described in this report.

The investigating team also recommended that the government, led by the Department of Public Service and Administration, develop and implement a public service awareness campaign to discourage the negative culture of name-dropping in the form of improper use of the names of members of the executive in the public sector.

“In addition, the definition of acts of misconduct should be amended across government to include name-dropping as gross misconduct,” he said.

Radebe pointed out that in this particular case, it included the names of President Jacob Zuma, the Minister of Transport Ben Martins and the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

He said no minister or the President was involved in the saga.

“In any event, the President is not involved in authorising the landing or not landing of aircraft at airports,” he said, pointing out that this function was in the hands of the Minister of Defence.

The investigating team found that in February, the Gupta family had approached the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) to request landing rights and a reception for the wedding party.

However, as this would have disrupted operations at OR Tambo International Airport, the request was refused.

The Guptas then approached the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her advisor on different occasions, and on April 3 this request was also turned down.

The Gupta family then sought the support of an individual in the Indian High Commission, who re-designated the wedding entourage as an official delegation to enable them to use the Air Force Base Waterkloof under the cover of diplomatic privilege.

“It is an undisputed fact that there was no official Note Verbale from the Indian High Commission to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, and therefore due process was not followed,” said Radebe.

Also addressing media, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoane-Mashabane, said despite the saga, relations with India remained strong.

The cluster would share the findings of the report with the Indian government in due course, she said. –