'No truth' to Zuma 'Guptagate' claims: Presidency

03 October 2013 - 12:20
By Sapa
Mac Maharaj
Mac Maharaj

There is no truth to allegations by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members at a military tribunal that President Jacob Zuma was involved in the "Guptagate" scandal, the presidency said on Thursday.

"While it would not be appropriate to discuss matters that are being addressed at the tribunal, we wish to state categorically that there is no truth to the allegation," spokesman Mac Maharaj said.

Beeld reported that two of five SANDF members, charged before a military court in connection with the landing of a private aircraft at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in April, implicated Zuma in sworn affidavits.

An excerpt from Lt-Col Christine Anderson's statement read: "On or about 17 April 2013, Mr [Bruce] Koloane phoned me and he informed me that he had returned from the president and that the president wanted to know 'if everything is still on track for the flight'."

Koloane was the chief of state protocol at the time, but has since been demoted. A report by the justice department said he and other senior officials acted alone.

Anderson also confirmed that Zuma was the "Number One", referred to in a report on "Guptagate" by the justice department. She said that for security reasons, the president was referred to in this way during telephone conversations.

A chartered commercial aircraft, Jet Airways flight JAI 9900 from India, ferrying more than 200 guests for the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, and Indian-born Aakash Jahajgarhia, landed at the base in April.

The passengers were then transported, either by light aircraft, helicopter, or in police-escorted vehicles, to attend the lavish ceremony at Sun City's Palace of the Lost City in North West.

The landing sparked widespread criticism and several investigations were launched.

A government investigation exonerated Zuma and his ministers, and found that the landing was the result of "collusion by officials".

Another of the SANDF members before the military court, Warrant Officer Thabo Ntshisi, said in his sworn affidavit that Koloane had not wanted a paper trail linking Zuma to the plane landing.

Ntshisi said he was referred to Koloane to get a "note verbale", a written diplomatic communication, to authorise the landing.

But Koloane told Ntshisi that it was not easy to issue this because he was not allowed to put it on paper that Zuma had authorised the flight.

"He [Koloane] said Lt-Col Christine Anderson will confirm it. She said that Number One knew of the flight and that I should allow the flight."

Maharaj dismissed the allegations regarding Zuma.

"It is not based on fact, it is based on hearsay.

"This is an old allegation being recycled before a military tribunal that is currently in session," he said.