South Africa: Press Statement of the JCPS Ministers On the Report of the Investigating Team Examining the Landing of a Chartered Commercial Aircraft At Air Force Base Waterkloof On 30 April 2013

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Photo: South African Air Force
Aircraft parked at South Africa's Waterkloof Air force Base which is considered a national key point.

On 2 May 2013, in the wake of the landing of a chartered commercial aircraft at Air Force Base Waterkloof on 30 April 2013, the Ministers of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster instructed a team of Directors-General to investigate the matter. On 3 May 2013, during a JCPS press briefing, we indicated the deadline of 14 May 2013, seven working days.

The Investigating Team was provided with the following Terms of Reference:

(i) Determine the sequence of events prior to, during and after the commercial aircraft's landing at Air Force Base Waterkloof.

(ii) Assess the actual events in the light of the established government and departmental legislation, regulations and protocols.

(iii) Interview and interact with relevant persons to establish facts, and factor in investigations currently under way; and

(iv) Make findings and recommendations to avert similar occurrences in future.

The deadline of 14 May 2013 was complied with, and the Investigating Team provided Ministers with a comprehensive report. The JCPS Ministers met on 17 May 2013 to discuss the content of the report.

In investigating this matter the team interviewed the role players involved; obtained sworn statements and affidavits; and conducted site visits. The team received the full cooperation of departments and role players, and is satisfied that no stone was left unturned in determining the truth of the matter.

In keeping with our undertaking we present the following findings from the investigation:

1. The Investigating Team has conclusively found that in February 2013 the Gupta family approached the Airports Company South Africa and requested landing rights and an elaborate reception for the wedding party. This would have disrupted the functioning of O.R. Tambo International Airport at the time of landing, particularly the operations of the National Immigration Branch at the airport. As a result, this was turned down. In March 2013 the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and her advisor were approached by the Gupta family on different occasions. On 3 April 2013 this request was also turned down. The Gupta family then resorted to the use of the diplomatic channel with the support of an individual in the Indian High Commission who re-designated the wedding entourage as an official delegation to enable them to use the Air Force Base Waterkloof under the cover of diplomatic privilege. It is an undisputed fact that there was no official Note Verbale from the Indian High Commission to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, and therefore due process was not followed. An individual in the Indian High Commission communicated directly with individuals at the Air Force Command Post. The collusion of officials resulted in the irregular approval of the flight clearance.

2. Members of the Executive were not required to issue any instructions, did not issue any instructions, and did not create the impression that they ought to have issued any instructions.

3. The aircraft in question was cleared for landing by the Air Force Command Post, and the correct clearance procedures were followed, but based on false information and abuse of privileges, the combination of which resulted in the manipulation of the process by various persons who shared a common purpose and acted in concert. They include the Chief of State Protocol, Ambassador V.B. Koloane, who acted in the absence of a Note Verbale from the Indian High Commission in contravention of existing diplomatic protocols; and the Officer Commanding Movement Control at Air Force Base Waterkloof, Lieutenant-Colonel C. Anderson. The process of disciplinary hearings will continue to be pursued to determine the guilt or otherwise of these individuals.

4. The Air Force Base has seven functions: the conduct of operations; the hosting of training flights; receiving VVIP and VIP flights; receiving foreign heads of state, envoys and dignitaries; receiving registered military aircraft; serving as a diversion airfield for commercial aircraft; and conducting air shows.

5. As a result of the nature of these functions, the Air Force Base Waterkloof handles both civilian and military aircraft. This notwithstanding, the landing of the chartered commercial aircraft, Flight JAI 9900, was a direct result of manipulation of processes.

6. The Air Force Base Waterkloof is a strategic military base that resorts under the Defence Act, Act 44 of 1957. The Air Force Base Waterkloof is not a National Key Point and is not governed by the National Key Points Act, which is managed by the SAPS. This being a strategic military base, which also serves as an entry point into South Africa, it has even more stringent security measures.

7. The landing of Flight JAI 9900 following the exercise of undue influence had the potential to compromise the credibility of the Government of the Republic, and could have caused severe reputational damage to the state itself.

8. The activities of some of the persons involved were driven by the undesirable practice of the exercise of undue influence, and abuse of higher office. It posed a threat to the culture of professionalism that ought to characterise a caring and professional public service rooted in the Batho Pele principle. It undermines the quest to build a capable state and the requirement that it be served by professional public servants with foresight to understand the implications of their conduct for the reputation of the state.

9. While Flight JAI 9900 was in South African airspace, all procedures, protocols and instructions from air traffic control were complied with. The dramatised reports in the media, including social media, about the flight taking a tour over South African cities and disrupting air traffic are therefore unfounded.

10. Following the application for the SAPS, North-West Province, to exercise their responsibilities in terms of the Safety at Sports, Recreation and Entertainment Act, (SSAREA), the police were obliged to prepare and implement a safety plan for the wedding. This is despite their earlier refusal to do so, when they had adjudged it to be a private event. Had the National Joint Operations and Intelligence Structure been convened, the involvement of other departments would have provided an opportunity to avert this breach.

11. The involvement of law enforcement agencies under the auspices and leadership of the South African Police Services, in providing convoy protection services was authorised, but involved officers who were moonlighting contrary to regulations. The officials from the Metro Police who carried their firearms irregularly to protect the event are only authorised to bear their firearms within their respective Metro jurisdictions. Their use in this instance was a violation of regulations. Some of them also drove vehicles that were fitted illegally with blue lights.

12. In the interest of the safety of all road users and taking into account that 121 vehicles were deployed by the event organiser, it was necessary that law enforcement officers take charge of the convoy to Sun City. However, due to the lack of vigilance of the SAPS members deployed for escort duty, who did not identify the drivers as non-SAPS members, they placed reliance on those drivers. This made it possible for the cars fitted with illegal blue-lights to push people off the road, cause delays and inconvenience other road users. The public outcry that followed was therefore justified.

13. It is now confirmed that all helicopters used in the operation were organised and funded by the Gupta family, and were neither SAPS nor SANDF helicopters. All of the black BMW's used in the convoys were hired from a private company. Three Range Rovers had similar registration numbers; two Mercedes Benz had similar registration numbers; three of the BMW's had false registration.

14. Overall, the total deployment of government personnel during the operation was 194 persons and 88 vehicles. 296 private security officers were deployed at the expense of the event organiser. The organisers also deployed two fixed-wing aircraft and seven helicopters to ferry their guests from the base to Sun City. This was authorised as a package linked to the already-issued clearance for Flight JAI 9900.

15. It is commendable, notwithstanding the manipulation by a few, that public servants in affected government departments and structures raised concerns, some of them repeatedly, as to what was transpiring. However, their concerns were neither addressed, nor acted upon by those in positions of authority over them bent on manipulating the system, working with individuals outside the state.

16. Despite this isolated breach, the system for the management of foreign visits and the requisite permits, policies and procedures is in place and functioning. That is why flights arrive and depart daily without incident. The breach in this instance was a consequence of manipulation by the responsible persons, who contemptuously manipulated the system to advance the wedding objectives at all costs

We have accepted the following recommendations arising from the investigation to close all gaps that made this breach possible:

1. All affected departments must complete their investigations into this matter as soon as possible to ensure that justice is seen to be done, and the required disciplinary measures are fully implemented where deemed necessary.

1.1 This is to ensure that those who made the following transgressions are brought to book:

SAPS Act, Act 68 of 1995: Contravening of Section 67(2)(a): Conspiring or inducing or attempting to induce a member not to perform duty or act in conflict with his duty; and Section 68: Falsely pretending to be a police officer.

Road Traffic Act, Act 93 of 1996: Section 89(3) and Section 68(1) and (2): Use of false registration.

Companies Act, Act 71 of 2008: Section 214(1)(b): Person with a fraudulent purpose knowingly provided false or misleading information in any circumstances under this Act; and Section 214(1)(c): Knowingly a party to an act of omission by a company calculated to defraud a creditor or employee of the company, or a holder of the company securities, or with another fraudulent purpose.

Firearms Control Act, Act 60 of 2000: Section 120(1)(a): Failure to apply for renewal of a licence/permit/certificate authorisation before end of period determined by the Minister.

Common Law Crimes: Fraud, falsely pretending or misrepresenting the existence of a company.

Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority Act, Act 56 of 2001: Section 20(1): Conducting of security service contrary to the Act.

1.2 The following cases have been registered:

Sun City CAS 16/05/2013: Contravention of the Firearms Control Act.

Sun City CAS 18/05/2013: Contravention of the National Road Traffic Act.

Sun City CAS 19/05/2013: Contravention of the PSIRA Act.

Sun City CAS 20/05/2013: Contravention of the PSIRA Act.

Lyttelton CAS 71/05/2013: Contravention of the South African Police Act.

We anticipate that more cases will be opened as the investigations proceed.

2. To avoid impunity and to address violations stemming from the landing of Flight JAI9900 at Air Force Base Waterkloof, relevant government departments have imposed fines and are taking corrective action. This includes the imposition of a fine of R80 000 for the failure of the pilot of Flight JAI9900 to obtain a Foreign Operators Permit.

3. Government, led by the Department of Public Service and Administration, should develop and implement a public service awareness campaign to discourage the negative culture of name dropping in the form of improper use of the names of members of the Executive in the public sector. In addition, the definition of acts of misconduct should be amended across government to include name dropping as gross misconduct.

Ministers are instructing their Directors-General to urgently action the relevant recommendations.

In conclusion, the landing of flight JAI 9900 at Air Force Base Waterkloof has brought to the fore serious issues that need immediate attention. These include the identified culture of undue influence, underpinned by poor ethical conduct and a lack of professionalism described in this report.

We believe that the unified public voice which condemned the incident, together with decisive government action, serves as a useful basis for the development of a partnership between our people and their government in the fight to combat crime and corruption in our country.

Notwithstanding the negative findings, the work of the Investigating Team has brought to light the many public servants who conscientiously and faithfully perform their duties and daily tasks, and whose work is a credit to our country that they serve.

The report will be released in the course of the coming week.

Issued by the Chairperson of the JCPS Cluster Ministers, the Honourable Mr J. Radebe, MP, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development

Issued by: Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)

 

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