South Africa suspended its chief of state protocol Bruce Koloane on Thursday after a private chartered aircraft bringing guests to a wedding in an Indian-origin family landed at an air force base.
International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane sent Mr. Koalane on compulsory leave with immediate effect, the South African Press Association reported.
A controversy broke out after an A330-200 of Jet Airways, carrying guests for the wedding in the prominent Gupta family, landed at the Waterkloof airbase near Pretoria on Tuesday.
“Preliminary investigations have revealed the need to probe the circumstances under which the clearances for the aircraft to land were secured,” the report quoted International Relations and Cooperation Department spokesman Clayson Monyela as saying.
Gupta family spokesman Haranath Ghosh said the Waterkloof airbase had to be used as the privately owned Lanseria International Airport, northwest of Johannesburg, could not accommodate an aircraft of that size. But who gave the Guptas permission to use the defence facility is still not clear, with the South African National Defence Force, which is in charge of the airport, saying it was not aware of any such permission having been granted.
India’s Deputy High Commissioner Armstrong Changsan said the High Commission had sought permission from the South African authorities to land the chartered aircraft as it was carrying some Indian government officials.
According to Mr. Monyela, neither the International relations and Co-operation Department nor the presidency granted executive authority for the aircraft to land at the base. Internal investigations would start immediately.
Meanwhile, the four-day extravaganza got off in style at the five-star Palace of the Lost City hotel in Sun City on Tuesday evening, with guests treated to a fireworks display and a sumptuous dinner, the local media reported.
The bride, Vega Gupta, is the daughter of Achla Gupta, the only sister of the Gupta brothers — Ajay, Atul and Rajesh — who own The New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers. The groom is India-born Aakash Jahajgarhia.
Another report said President Jacob Zuma would be the guest of honour at the wedding, though presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said earlier the event was not in the President’s diary.