Guptagate farce will damage SA image

Guests arrive at the Waterkloof Airforce Base for the Gupta wedding. Courtesy Barry Bateman/Eyewitness News Photo: Courtesy Barry Bateman/Eyewitness News

The debacle surrounding the landing of the enormous Gupta party jet at the Waterkloof Air Force Base is an embarrassment to the country which will reflect badly in security circles.

This is according to Wits University International Relations lecturer David Hornsby, who called government’s handling of the controversy “farcical”.

Hornsby said that following the Central African Republic (CAR) deployment fiasco, and the Nkandla security upgrade scandal security analysts internationally will get a negative impression.

“From the outside looking in, it’s going to fit into other inconsistencies. If you look at Nkandla, the deployment of troops in CAR and the inability to answer questions [Guptagate] will fit into the outside analysis that the South African security apparatus is in disarray,” Hornsby said. understands that one national Indian minister and four regional ministers – similar to MEC’s in South Africa – were part of the wedding party which landed at the air force base.

Hornsby said that in terms of international norms, it was unusual for mid to low ranking dignitaries to require an air force base landing.

“OR Tambo (International Airport) clearly has the facilities to receive VIP guests. It is only in extreme circumstances that there is a requirement for special measures,” he said.

“People with diplomatic immunity do fly commercially,” he said.

Hornsby added that Prime Ministers and Presidents were known to land at military bases, but did not fly with civilians.

The fact that the defence department seemed unaware of who was landing at what is meant to be its most secure air force base, was a major concern.

Hornsby added that the South African government would need to work hard at cleaning up its image in the international community.

“It has to be made very clear what the protocols are for access to military bases. It looks quite farcical. How a military base was used for landing a private jet so flagrantly. To security experts looking in, it's going to seem pretty amateurish,” he said.

Hornsby said the impression created by the Gupta debacle would dent South Africa’s image, when it should be projecting the image of being a “power-house on the continent.”


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