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Ramaphosa: I didn’t know the plane belonged to the Guptas

He says the defence force could not find an appropriate plane to take the delegation to Japan.

FILE: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa arriving at Tokyo International Airport in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has broken his silence on his controversial trip to Japan aboard a chartered plane owned by a Gupta family company.

Eyewitness News revealed that the jet, which ferried the government delegation on the official visit, was hired by the Department of Defence.

Ramaphosa was questioned about the charter during his appearance in the National Council of Provinces this afternoon.

He says the defence force could not find an appropriate plane to take the delegation to Japan.

He also says he didn't know who the plane belonged to.

"The information about the ownership of the plane only comes out much later. Now let say that what we always seek to do is to find the most cost effective way to take us to whatever destination and that we will continue to do."

ASSESSMENT OF SECURITY

On Saturday, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she asked the air force to assess whether the current processes followed to charter private jets for VIPs compromised security and integrity.

Mapisa-Nqakula held a briefing at the Waterkloof Air Force Base on Friday to explain why a government delegation made use of a leased jet instead of using the air force's own aircrafts.

EWN revealed that the Gupta owned Bomba-Dier was chartered at an estimated cost of R5 million for the official visit.

The minister said the company providing the plane and the pilots, ExecuJet, were security vetted but the owners of the plane were not.

She said ExecuJet exercised a right of non-disclosure of the ownership of the aircraft.

"ExecuJet is not obliged to come to us and say this particular aircraft which we are securing for you belongs to 'A'; what is important is that the jet belongs to a company within the Republic of South Africa."

The minister insisted government and in particular Ramaphosa did not know the Gupta family owned the private jet.

Mapisa-Nqakula insisted all procedures were followed for the procurement of the plane.

"We have absolutely no control over who owns an aircraft which is charted by ExecuJet on the basis of the specifications request specifications submitted to National Treasury."