Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe briefing media on Friday. Picture: GCIS
Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe. Picture: GCIS

NO EXECUTIVE authority was granted for the aircraft that transported guests for the Gupta family wedding to land at Waterkloof Air Force Base this week, and Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe says the government wants answers about the security breach at the strategically important facility.

The Gupta family’s chartered jet was moved off the Waterkloof Air Force Base on Thursday afternoon, after widespread outrage over private use of a military facility.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said the plane flew to nearby commercial OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

The wealthy and politically connected Gupta family landed wedding guests at the base — a national key point — on Tuesday morning.

The Guptas have apologised for all the incidents reported surrounding the wedding.

"In light of what happened ... the family would like to issue a general apology to all affected, including the South African and Indian governments, the local authorities, the South African public and especially our guests." Atul Gupta said in a statement issued on Saturday.

He said his family was "simply trying to give daughter ... a memorable wedding on South African soil".

"We also regret any incidents at the Sun City venue of which the family was unaware. The allegations of racism regarding the staff are definitely untrue. If there was an isolated incident involving any of our guest (we) apologise unreservedly to any party affected," said Mr Gupta.

The government has now suspended, or placed on special leave, five senior officials.

They are: the chief of state protocol ambassador Bruce Koloane; Officer Commanding Air Force Command post: Brig-Gen L Lombard; Officer Commanding Air Force Base Waterkloof: Brig-Gen TS Madumane; Movement Control Officer: Lt-Col C Anderson; and Maj-Gen Gela of the South African Police Service operational response services in Gauteng.

Three people have been arrested in connection with providing an unofficial armed escort for the guests from Waterkloof to the wedding at Sun City.

Two are Tshwane Metro Police officers and one is a South African Police Service reservist.

Mr Radebe also said the black BMWs used to transport the guests were illegally fitted with blue lights and had false number plates, and criminal charges had been laid against the owner of the company, S&N Transportation, that supplied the cars.

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said she would meet Indian high commissioner in South Africa Virendra Gupta later on Friday to discuss what could be a breach of diplomatic protocol by the aircraft landing.

"It is not normal for a defence attaché to solicit permission to use an important asset outside the normal channels," she said.

Mr Radebe said: "The government has no record of a note verbale from the Indian high commission notifying the Department of International Relations and Co-operation of a visiting delegation requiring diplomatic assistance and aircraft clearance and landing rights."

He said the defence attaché of the Indian high commission had sent a request for aircraft clearance directly to the Air Force Command Unit within the SANDF on April 4.

"The South African Air Force consulted with the office of state protocol at (the department) and facilitated the clearance of the aircraft without informing the chief of the SANDF."

Ms Nkoana-Mashabane said normal diplomatic channels would be used in discussing the issue with the Indian high commissioner.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority would impose a penalty on the operator of the A330 for violation of the Civil Aviation Regulations. The Airbus A330 belonged to Jet Airways.

"The government would like to assure the South African public that no stone will be left unturned to ensure that we get to the bottom of this matter, and hold all those responsible for bringing our country into disrepute, whoever they are and whatever position they hold," Mr Radebe said.

"We want to assure the South African public that we will do all in our power to strengthen security protocols and to ensure adherence to them."

He said the directors-general of the departments of international relations, justice, defence, police and home affairs would investigate the circumstances surrounding the landing of the aircraft at Waterkloof and a report would be delivered within seven days.

With Sapa