Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Guptagate: Ministerial heads must roll

Democratic Alliance press statement by

David Maynier MP

DA Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

22 May 2013

Release: immediate

The following is an extract of a speech by the DA's Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, David Maynier MP, which was delivered in the National Assembly today during the snap debate on "Guptagate".

President Jacob Zuma told us during the State of the Nation Address on 14 February 2013 that "government was waging war against corruption". But, just minutes before, he had welcomed "special and distinguished guests", including none other than Atul Gupta, who was sitting, of all places, in the "Presidential Box".  The President did not hesitate to flaunt his close relationship with the Guptas, right here, under our noses, in Parliament. That neatly illustrates, as the President likes to say, "where the problem comes". Because, the root cause of the problem, which led to "Guptagate", is President Jacob Zuma. 

He is responsible for creating the "culture of undue influence" referred to in the investigation report. That is why the President should have been here today accounting to us in Parliament, rather than hiding away from us in the Union Buildings.

When Jet Airways Airbus JAI 9900 landed at Air Force Base Waterkloof on 30 April 2013, it triggered massive political fallout. Years of frustration with President Zuma's "sugar daddies", including the Shaiks, the Reddys and the Guptas, who make up "Zuma Inc.", exploded. Something snapped inside the ruling party and even Gwede - "Don't Upset Ministers" - Mantashe was moved to issue a public statement condemning "Guptagate". With the situation spinning out of control, Jeff Radebe, the damage-control officer in chief, was brought in to contain the political fallout from "Guptagate".  It came as no surprise, therefore, that the investigation effectively exonerated President Zuma and members of his Cabinet. The Minister was at pains to point out that "ministers were not involved in this matter".

Well, the fact is nobody believes that not one minister knew anything about: 

  • 3 fixed wing aircraft;
  • 7 helicopters;
  • 88 vehicles; and 
  • 490 personnel – 194 of them, being state employees – supporting a private function from AFB Waterkloof.
  • The Minister went on to make an extraordinary statement that:

 "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."

But, had clear instructions been issued, there would have been no "Guptagate". 

The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, received a request from the Gupta family to use AFB Waterkloof. To her credit, she turned the request down. But, the Minister then failed to inform the Secretary of Defence, Sam Gulube, or the Chief of the Defence Force, General Solly Shoke, of her decision.

We have to ask: in what kind of country does a private individual telephone a minister to request landing rights at a strategic military base? We also have to ask: in what kind of country does a minister turn down a request and then not officially communicate the decision to her senior officials? The Minister, evidently, needs to be reminded that she runs a state department, which is responsible for the defence of the country, not a "spaza shop". Had the Minister taken action and issued clear instructions, Jet Airways JAI 9900 would never have landed at AFB Waterkloof, and there would have been no "Guptagate" scandal.

There is a widely held perception that when the Guptas say "jump", the President says, "how high".  So, why were we surprised that when the Guptas said "jump", some senior officials said, "how high"? We cannot sit back and allow ministers to get off the hook by hanging a few "rogue officials" out to dry. Ministerial heads must roll.

That is why we have requested the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, to conduct an independent investigation into "Guptagate". We need to know what President Zuma knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it. And, we need to know what ministers knew, when they knew it, and what they did about it. Because, in the end: ministers are responsible, and ministers must be accountable. If the Minister was serious about ensuring that a situation like this never happens again, then the final report of the investigation should have read something like this:

 Name: Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula

Position: Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

Charge: Incompetence

Finding: The Minister was negligent in not communicating her decision, to deny a request from the Gupta family to use AFB Waterkloof, to senior officials in the Department of Defence. Had the minister done so, there would have been no "Guptagate" scandal.

Recommendation: Fire

 But, in the end, if we really want to ensure that something like this never happens again, then we have to come together in our thousands, we have to come together in our tens of thousands, we have to come together in our millions and - together  - "fire" President Jacob Zuma on election day in 2014.

Media enquiries:

David Maynier MP

DA Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

071 534 6398

Alexandra Leisegang

Research and Communications Officer

072 225 3051

This email was sent by DA Media from DA using Target Media

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