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Thu Sep 18 11:43:30 SAST 2014

Gupta jet removed from Air Force base: SANDF

Sapa | 02 May, 2013 17:06
A300/A310 cockpit. File photo.
Image by: Airbus

The Gupta family's chartered jet was removed from Waterkloof Air Force Base on Thursday afternoon, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) said.

"Yes, I can confirm that the jet has been removed from the air force base this afternoon," spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini said.

"The information I have is that it was taken to OR Tambo International Airport, the commercial airport."

On Thursday morning Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ordered that the jet be removed.

"The clearance should be rescinded and the aircraft should immediately be removed... ," she said in a statement.

The minister further called for an investigation on why the air force was approached with a request to use the base.

She was informed about media reports on the clearance given to the aircraft during her visit to Ethiopia. When she returned on Wednesday she asked for an urgent briefing from the SANDF.

She said the international relations and co-operation department agreed to the Indian High Commission's request for the use of the base.

"The SA Air Force therefore dealt with the request as a normal process that has always applied when [the department] makes such a determination and direction."

Initially, a Gupta representative approached the defence department for help with the Indian High Commissioner's request for use of the base.

"This request for assistance was rejected, and since it was not even formalised, the ministry considered the matter closed. It had been our advice that the Airports Company SA was best placed to assist."

She said that against expectation attempts were then made to secure use of the base using diplomatic channels at the international relations department.

The office of the chief of state protocol dealt with the commissioner's request without consulting the chiefs of SANDF or air force, or the defence ministry, the minister said.

"The ministry of defence and military veterans would never have approved such a request."

On Thursday, the international relations department said Chief of State Protocol, ambassador Bruce Koloane, was placed on suspension while it conducted its investigation.

The Gupta family, which owns The New Age newspaper and the Sahara computer group, is celebrating the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, to Indian-born Aakash Jahajgarhia, at Sun City in the North West.

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Thu Sep 18 11:43:30 SAST 2014 ::