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Dear Corruption Watch

Why is everybody in such an uproar over the Guptas? Why does it matter that they landed a private Jet at Waterkloof air base?



Dear Unconcerned

Waterkloof air base is reserved for military and diplomatic use. None of the passengers on board the private jet were government officials or VIP’s on official duty. The South African public wants to know: how can the Guptas behave with such a flagrant disregard for our national sovereignty. How do they get away with it?

The government has appointed a team of Directors General to investigate how the Guptas managed to land a private jet at the Waterkloof air base.  At the press conference called to address the public, the Minister of Justice said: “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. 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.”

As if to reassure the public, the Minister confirmed that immigration officials from Home Affairs processed the Gupta delegation (which did not include passengers who fit the category of government officials or VIP’s on official duty) when they arrived. Although no SARS officials were present, they were dispatched to Sun City after the fact with the required customs declaration forms.

Five public servants, including the Chief of State Protocol, have been suspended for their role in granting the Gupta jet permission to land at Waterkloof. Two Tshwane metro police officers and one police reservist have been arrested for providing the delegation with a blue light escort to Sun City.

South Africans are justified in our concern at this apparent breach of security. We need to know who approved the use of Waterkloof. But that is not all we have to be concerned about.

The Guptas enjoy a close relationship with the President and with members of his family. Duduzane Zuma, President Zuma’s son, jointly controls Mabengela Investments with Tony Gupta. JIC Mining Services is also majority- owned by the Guptas and Duduzane. It is also rumoured that the Gupta family is helping Bongi Ngema-Zuma (one of the President’s wives) pay off her R3.8million home loan. The President has never denied his relationship with the Guptas, nor has he distanced himself from their alleged use of his name.

State owned enterprises have spent more than R100 million in “advertising” in the Gupta-owned New Age newspaper. Members of the Cabinet attended the wedding at Sun City, apparently unconcerned by the controversy.

We hope the findings of the government investigation will be made public. It is a pity that their terms of reference do not extend to asking the following question: whether the shared business interests of the Gupta and Zuma families, and the close relationship the Guptas appear to enjoy with members of the Cabinet, afforded them special treatment?

South African anti – corruption legislation creates a very broad definition of corruption. It punishes both the person receiving or offering to receive any “gratification” – i.e. benefit – and the person who gives or offers a “gratification”. 

If people with money and known political connections can use their influence to secure special privileges, is that not corruption?

In this case, the public’s anger should be directed, not only at the Guptas, but our government for perpetuating the belief that money buys you influence and favours.

Why is everybody in such an uproar over the Guptas? Why does it matter that they landed a private Jet at Waterkloof air base?