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S.Africa's Zuma denies role in Indian wedding scandal

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma on Thursday denied any role in a scandal over a lavish Indian wedding party that has placed an uncomfortable spotlight on his ties to wealthy backers.

A government probe found that officials used Zuma's name to get permission for a private jet carrying wedding guests of the well-connected Gupta family to land at a military base near Pretoria last month.

"The president did not speak to or authorise any government official to process or approve the landing of the private plane at Waterkloof," the presidency said.

Zuma himself urged public officials not to abuse their influence.

"It is unfortunate that some officials and members of the public would resort to that practice of using and abusing the names of members of cabinet," Zuma said.

"We call for vigilance and urge all our officials who are entrusted with managing state institutions not to succumb to pressure from name-droppers."

The chief of state protocol, Bruce Koloane, who has been suspended over his role in the controversy, had said he was "under pressure from number one" to allow the Gupta family to land at the airforce base.

But he later told investigators that he had received no such instruction from Zuma.

The inquiry found that the collusion of officials had led to the irregular landing being approved, but the investigation has been rubbished as a whitewash by the opposition.

The wedding saga has sparked public anger and raised questions over Zuma's links with the powerful Gupta brothers, who own several companies in South Africa, including Sahara Computers and the pro-government New Age newspaper.

It was their niece Vega Gupta who was getting married.

Bollywood stars and politicians were among the guests attending the four-day celebration, which was billed as "the wedding of the year" and included a full police escort to the Sun City resort for the party's 121-car convoy.

A total of 194 government staff and 88 vehicles were used, 296 private security officers were hired, and two planes and seven helicopters were deployed to ferry guests, according to the inquiry.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130523/safricas-zuma-denies-role-indian-wedding-scandal