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Fri Oct 24 18:52:48 SAST 2014

Chief of State Protocol suspended over Gupta air force base use

Sapa | 02 May, 2013 08:12
Vega Gupta (centre) with family members at Sun City yesterday. The family has reportedly booked out the entire Palace of the Lost City for the four-day wedding of a niece of the three locally known Gupta brothers.
Image by: HO

Chief of State Protocol Bruce Koloane was suspended on Thursday during a probe into how a Gupta family chartered jet was allowed to land at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

"Preliminary investigations have revealed the need to probe the circumstances under which the clearances for the aircraft to land were secured," said international relations and co-operation department spokesman Clayson Monyela.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had placed ambassador Koloane on compulsory leave with immediate effect, he said in a statement. Koloane's deputy would assume responsibility in the interim.

This would allow the department to get to the bottom of the matter.

A Gupta family spokesman said on Tuesday that the authorities had given permission for the jet, carrying guests at a family wedding, to land at the air force base.

"The Waterkloof [Air Base] was used as Lanseria airport could not accommodate the size of the jet chartered by the family," said family spokesman Haranath Ghosh.

"The permissions were applied for and granted to the Indian High Commission and not the family," he said.

He said all transport arrangements had been transparently made.

"Naturally, suitable protocol was used to receive and transport the foreign ministers to the wedding," he said.

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

Monyela said neither the department nor the presidency granted executive authority for the aircraft to land at the base.

Internal investigations, by the department and other state organisations would start with immediate effect.

The South African National Defence Force said on Tuesday that it was not aware of any permission granted for the Gupta family to use the base.

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