South Africa

Guptagate’s blue-light district: Another cover-up?

By De Wet Potgieter 9 May 2013

Is this another cover-up by police bosses - this time trying to conceal their shameful role in Guptagate - or is somebody else lying about the blue-light gang that whisked Indian guests last week from Waterkloof air force base to Sun City? Were they real police squad cars, and were the fancy black BMWs with flashing blue lights official vehicles? That’s the burning question nobody’s answered yet, writes DE WET POTGIETER.

No, those were bogus vehicles and not our blue light boys, claimed police headquarters as the scandal unfolded last week. The last word from the SAPS was that an official investigation had been launched to find out who was behind the illegal fitting of blue lights and false number plates on private vehicles.

But bodyguards and drivers in last Tuesday’s high-speed convoy told the Daily Maverick that none of the hired vehicles in their care were fitted with blue lights. In fact, they saw at least five officially marked patrol vehicles of the flying squad, as well as two black BMWs, waiting with them in the parking area of Waterkloof AFB at sunrise for the plane to land.

“One of the squad cars had to be push-started before they could join the procession that morning,” said one of the bodyguards, who came back a day later, disgusted by the way that the security arrangements had disintegrated into chaos.

Not one of the fleet of hired cars had been fitted with any blue lights, say the drivers. Several of them say they had no knowledge of private vehicles with blue lights controlling the traffic.

“What we do know is that Tshwane metro police officers in official vehicles made sure that we could drive through every intersection on the way without stopping for traffic,” they said on Tuesday. Those duties were taken over by traffic officials in the North West province once the convoy crossed the border from Gauteng into the Rustenburg district.

Daily Maverick was told that only two off-duty metro police officers were part of their contingent of bodyguards and drivers for Idol Protection Services (IPS), who did the recruiting for the security of the wedding guests.

They were apprehended by the Sun City security officers in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and handed over to the police for allegedly tampering with a fire hydrant. “We dubbed them the whiskey heads,” a bodyguard explained with a chuckle.

It’s not clear if the two moonlighting metro cops are included in the nine Tshwane metro cops arrested for allegedly escorting the cavalcade.

Those arrested were subsequently released and were back on duty this week. “I can confirm that some of the officers are back on duty and others will report for duty as per their shifts,” Tshwane Metro police spokesperson Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said. According to him, preliminary investigations would indicate what disciplinary action should be brought against them.

Details about the chaos that reigned among the security detail at the Gupta wedding started surfacing last Wednesday when the hired guards described the arrangements as a “joke” and “unprofessional” as management scrambled for some semblance of damage control.

As for what transpired at the actual wedding, the issues started with transportation, where the drivers had to pay toll fees out of their own pockets. The security operation kicked off when CPOs and drivers gathered at the Continental Hotel at OR Tambo and proceeded to Thrifty’s Car Hire, where they picked up over 20 Mercedes C200 sedans. From there, they visited a second car hire company in Modderfontein, where they were given 10 LandRover Discoverys and 10 brand-new Range Rover Evoques. They took the vehicles home and arrived at Waterkloof at 5 on Tuesday morning.

The convoy allegedly travelled between 120 and 140km/h all the way to Sun City, and were met at every intersection by the police officers ensuring the convoy could speed along without having to stop anywhere.

Later in the week, South Africa will know much more about the security arrangements. In the meantime, it does remain difficult to believe that the operation involving between 40 and 50 cars, stretching over two provinces and many municipalities over the distance of some 120km, could have been organised by a couple of moonlighting cops in need for some extra cash. DM

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