With civil claims looming against any number of Cabinet Ministers and the President in the wake of charges being withdrawn against the remaining two suspects in Guptagate, a suggestion by FF+ MP Pieter Groenewald makes eminent sense.
He wants to see the politically connected Gupta family, probably best known for their forays into the South African media sector, pay all legal fees and any resulting civil claims relating to the illegal landing of a chartered Airbus A330-200 at AFB Waterkloof early in May 2013.
Lieutenant-Colonels Christine Anderson and Stefan van Zyl were yesterday informed by the Department of Defence’s Legal Services Division that the Director: Military Prosecutions has formally withdrawn charges against them.
The letter follows an ultimatum issued earlier this year by the SA National Defence Union (Sandu) on behalf of the two SA Air Force officers to either proceed or drop charges.
“The withdrawal of charges is proof the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) accused innocent officers to protect the real culprits and cover up President Jacob Zuma’s true involvement.
“The cover-up was reprehensible and shows everything possible will be done to protect Zuma’s abuse of power. To hold the SANDF accountable for costs will mean taxpayers will be held responsible. This is unfair. The Guptas should pay because they used Waterkloof,” Groenewald said.
David Maynier, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister, said the withdrawal of charges proved the JCPS (Justice, Crime Prevention and Security) cluster task team’s investigation into Guptagate was “a carefully crafted damage control exercise designed to firewall Zuma and his Cabinet from the political fall-out generated by the incident”.
He said the strategy employed by Jeff Radebe, Minister in the Presidency who acted as “damage-control-officer-in-chief” failed.
“The attempt to make these officials (Anderson and Van Zyl) walk the plank for Guptagate failed dismally and in the end, Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula should have been fired,” he said.
As has by now become customary with legal matters affecting the SANDF, a non-committal statement was the only response. “The Department of Defence is awaiting a full report from the director military prosecutions before any further comment,” a statement attributed to DoD head of communications, Siphiwe Dlamini, said.
Pikkie Greeff, Sandu national secretary, said the withdrawal of charges was nothing less than a cop-out by the SANDF.
“The only reasonable inference, after both officers having to wait 16 months while three separate State-driven investigations were conducted, is that the authorities are too cowardly to have this matter heard in an independent forum such as a court of law. This because of fears the material flaws of their own investigations and, more importantly, the top level nepotism and corruption which enabled the aircraft to land at AFB Waterkloof will be exposed.
“The entire process (of the investigation) has always been aimed at the despicable ulterior motive of protecting Zuma and his political reputation at all costs,” Greeff said, adding work was already underway to institute civil lawsuits against all State organs involved.
“When it comes to the hearings the Sandu legal team will not hesitate to subpoena all relevant witnesses, including the President and members of his erstwhile Cabinet who participated in the Justice Cluster’s so-called investigation.”