News / South Africa / State Capture

Makhosandile Zulu
3 minute read
2 Jul 2019
11:32 am

Tony Gupta wanted ‘welcoming ceremony’ for Zuma’s ‘guests and friends’ at OR Tambo

Makhosandile Zulu

The commission has heard it was indicated that four or five ministers from India would be at the ceremony and were the former president's friends.

A man fell from the City Lodge Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport in the early hours of Friday morning.

The commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Tuesday that Tony Gupta had bemoaned the denial of the family’s request to host a welcoming ceremony in 2013 at OR Tambo International Airport for their wedding guests.

The commission, which is chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, is hearing evidence on the 2013 Gupta Waterkloof landing.

First on the witness stand was former minister of transport Ben Martins, who served in the portfolio from 2012 to 2013.

Martins told the commission that Gupta’s reaction to being denied a ceremony to welcome their wedding guests at the airport was to question that then president Jacob Zuma’s “guests” and “friends” were being denied the opportunity.

Martins told the commission that a member or members of the Gupta family approached the Airport Company of South Africa (Acsa) in February 2013 seeking permission to host the welcoming ceremony at the airport.

This was relayed to Martins by the acting chief executive officer (CEO), Bongani Maseko, the commission heard.

Martins told the commission that as he understood it, the Guptas had requested that when the aeroplane lands at OR Tambo International Airport there should be a welcome reception at the tarmac “upon the guests disembarking from the aeroplane”.

Gupta, Maseko, Martins and ambassador Bruce Koloane then met at a later stage where the request by the family was discussed, the commission heard.

Evidence leader at the commission, Advocate Thandi Norman told Zondo that Koloane had been issued with a notice and that the ambassador’s legal team was expected to bring an application before the inquiry on Wednesday.

At the meeting, Martins told the commission that he explained that the tarmac side where the ceremony would be held fell under the jurisdiction of the department of home affairs and so, as the minister of transport, he had no authority to permit for such an event.

Martins told the commission that he further explained that due to the airport’s traffic, it would not be possible nor feasible for such a ceremony to be held, adding that he was not aware of previous similar ceremonies at the airport, explaining that even the country’s ministers were immediately escorted after they disembarked from an aeroplane.

“The decision [taken] was that we could not grant that request,” Martins told the commission.

Martins said Gupta’s reaction was that “are you really denying the guests of the president and the friends of the president the opportunity to have an opening ceremony there”.

The commission also heard that in his motivation for the request, Gupta had given an indication that four or five ministers from India would be onboard the aeroplane and were friends of Zuma.

After the meeting, Gupta called Martins a few times to ask if the request could not be accommodated, which the former minister maintained that the decision stood, the commission heard.

Martins told the commission that at some point, Maseko advised Gupta that the family should try and seek permission to land at Pilansberg or Lanseria Airport.

ALSO READ: Zondo commission to hear evidence on Gupta Waterkloof landing

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