Lack of government communication led to Gupta landing, says Air Force chief

04 July 2019 - 16:15 By AMIL UMRAW
The aircraft carrying the Guptas’ wedding guests at Waterkloof Air Force base.
The aircraft carrying the Guptas’ wedding guests at Waterkloof Air Force base.

Air Force chief Lt-Gen Fabian Msimang said the Gupta family being allowed to land a privately chartered airplane at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2013 was a "symptom" of a lack of co-ordination and communication between various government departments.

Testifying at the state capture inquiry on Thursday, Msimang said there were no checks and balances in place at the time to verify where information being fed into the Air Force had come from.

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He told the commission that in March 2013, a month before the Gupta family landed about 80 guests at the military base to attend the family's lavish Sun City wedding, he was approached by defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula's then political adviser, Michael Ramagoma.

"This took place during a time when the SA National Defence Force was on high alert. We had a situation in the Central African Republic whereby we lost 13 of our members ... At the same time, we also had an incident whereby we had lost a helicopter. I would also like to state that the landing of the aircraft happened within six months of my having taken office," he said.

"During the latter half of March 2013, [Ramagoma] approached me to determine the regulations informing the landing and taking off of a civilian aircraft at Waterkloof. I informed [him] that it would be irregular for an aircraft carrying Indian wedding guests to land at the base.

"I advised [him] that the matter should not be entertained any further. From my point of view I thought that was the end of it."

He said there were no checks and balances to verify the authenticity of the request to allow the Gupta family to land the plane.

"There were no checks and balances that is now the problem we are faced with here. It is due to the nature of the request in general ... This incident for me is a symptom of an absence of a coordinated interdepartmental arrangement to coordinate and coherently deal with the RSA05 [diplomatic requests]," he said.    

"In this space, arrangements are hinged on trust and integrity. Initially, when I tried to categorise the type of requests that come in, the environment from where that information is activated, the right information has to come through otherwise it contaminates the whole process. There are no checks and balances from the point where that information comes into the defence force."