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Indian-origin family wedding triggers political row

zuma mantashe

Durban, May 6 (IANS) A controversial wedding in an Indian-origin family in South Africa has allegedly created a rift between President Jacob Zuma and African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, a media report said.

The wedding in the influential Gupta family got hit by controversy when a chartered aircraft carrying guests from India landed at an air force base at Waterkloof near Pretoria April 30.

The aircraft incident was the final straw for Mantashe, who has allegedly been privately expressing concern that the family was wielding too much influence in the South African government and ANC affairs, the Independent Online reported quoting unnamed sources.

Mantashe’s supporters also had come out in support of ANC vice-president Cyril Ramaphosa to take over as party president in 2017, fearing some of Zuma’s allies would try to block Ramaphosa from taking over.

The bride in the wedding was Vega Gupta, daughter of Achla Gupta, the only sister to the politically connected Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – and the groom was India-born Aakash Jahajgarhia.

The Guptas own the New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers and are known to be close to President Zuma.

The private aircraft – an A330-200 belonging to Indian carrier Jet Airways – landing on the air force base had sparked outrage from various sections as it broke various rules and protocol.

Five senior officials, including the country’s chief of state protocol, have since been suspended and an inquiry ordered into the incident.

According to the report, the incident had also created divisions within cabinet ministers, which was why most of the invited ministers did not attend the grand wedding in the Palace of the Lost City five-star resort at Sun City May 2.

Mantashe, however, declined to comment on the issue Sunday.

“I don’t deal with bureaucrats in government. I do not know who these ANC leaders are and I can’t talk to an imagined person,” he was quoted as saying.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu dismissed all such reports of rift between the president and the ANC secretary general, saying such information is being peddled by people trying to sow divisions among ANC leaders.

Meanwhile, the Gupta family has expressed apologies for the aircraft incident and several other controversies surrounding the wedding.

“In light of what happened… the family would like to issue a general apology to all affected, including the South African and Indian governments, the local authorities, the South African public and especially our guests,” Atul Gupta said in a statement.

The family is now planning a grand after-party May 12 at Saharanpur in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh where they still retain a home.

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