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Zuma defends Gupta friendship

The president defended his right to have friends, even if their surname happened to be Gupta.

President Jacob Zuma addresses the Youth during National Youth Day Commemoration held at Madadeni,Newcastle In Kwazulu Natal.16/06/2013. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN - President Jacob Zuma defended his right to have friends in parliament on Wednesday, even if their surname is Gupta.

He was responding to questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon.

Eyewitness News broke the story on 30 April where around 200 wedding guests of the Gupta family made a controversial landing at the Waterkloof Air Force base in Pretoria without the compulsory authorisation from government officials.

The wealthy family is said to have close ties with the president.

Zuma was asked by Democratic Alliance (DA) Parliamentary Leader Lindiwe Mazibuko why the Gupta family have direct contact with members of his cabinet.

The president told Members of Parliament (MP)s any member of the public is free to contact any member of his cabinet or the public service.

He said his administration promotes open and accessible government.

"It is because any member of the public within South Africa and beyond our border is free to contact any members of my cabinet, the executive or the public service directly."

A follow up question came from Independent Democrats (ID) MP Joe Mcgluwa.

"Are you, Mr President, willing to cut your ties with the Gupta family?"

Zuma's response was that every human being has the right to make friends.

But, he said, that doesn't mean endorsing wrongdoing.

"We are not in the state that burns people because they are friends with others. But we are also in the state where if there are specific issues that have affected either the interests of government or whatever, people will come back and say these are facts that say this thing has happened and therefore this thing is not good."

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