Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula  Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND.

DEFENCE Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Thursday ordered that the Gupta family’s chartered jet be removed from Waterkloof Air Force Base.

"The clearance should be rescinded and the aircraft should immediately be removed," she said.

The minister called for an investigation of 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 South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

She said the Department of International Relations and Co-operation had agreed to the Indian High Commission’s request for the use of the base.

"The South African 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 representative from Gupta-owned Sahara Computers approached the Department of Defence 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 South Africa was best placed to assist."

She said that against expectation, attempts were then made to secure use of the base through diplomatic channels at the Department of International Relations.

The office of the chief of state protocol dealt with the commissioner’s request without consulting the chiefs of the SANDF or air force, or the Ministry of Defence.

"The Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans would never have approved such a request," she said.

On Thursday the Department of International Relations and Co-operation said the chief of state protocol, ambassador Bruce Koloane, had been suspended while it conducted its investigation.

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

Sapa