Official ignored rules to let Guptas land at Waterkloof, inquiry hears
Zondo commission hears testimony that could implicate former president Jacob Zuma in the scandal
A senior government official went out of his way to ensure the Gupta family were able to land a privately chartered plane at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2013.
Former chief of state protocol Bruce Koloane was accused at the state capture commission on Wednesday of having ignored rules and regulations regarding the use of the military base.
Koloane’s involvement in the Waterkloof saga is among the findings of an investigating team of security cluster officials who were put in charge of probing the controversial landing of about 80 guests the Guptas flew in to attend a family wedding at Sun City in April 2013.
The incident sparked outrage across the country and has been credited with bringing to greater public attention the alleged influence of the family on the administration of former president Jacob Zuma.
Former director-general of the department of justice & constitutional development Nonkululeko Sindane, who was part of the investigating team, testified at the Zondo commission on state capture on Wednesday.
The investigating team comprised of Zuma allies Thulani Dlomo from the State Security Agency and Tom Moyane, who was the national commissioner of correctional services at the time.
The team exonerated Zuma, despite an alleged reference to him by Koloane in recordings. This led to speculation that Koloane was the “fall guy” for the incident.
Sindane referred to recorded conversations in which Koloane was speaking to other officials about the flight. In them, he makes references to “number one”, a term commonly used to refer to the president.
“When we approached the director-general in the presidency [Cassius Lubisi at the time], we said one of the things that kept coming up is number one … We wanted to know if he had any responsibilities in law or otherwise in the landing of the aircraft. That was the context of our question,” Sindane said.
The team did not ask if Zuma had authorised the flight, though in the recordings Koloane had stated that the president and members of his cabinet had provided permission to do so.
“We found that Koloane, in facilitating this landing, ignored a whole range of things that he knew needed to exist before this landing was permissible,”said Sindane.
“They [Koloane and others] did more than what they were required to do to ensure that this landing happened, almost going so far as ignoring the rules and the protocols put there for this thing to happen,” she said.
However, Sindane said that in an interview with the team, Koloane denied he was being instructed by Zuma.
“They were using the power of the office of the ministers to say this was okay. We felt that was abusing the positions of power of these people who have been identified,” Sindane said.
In the investigative team’s findings, Sindane said ministers were not allowed to sanction the landing of privately chartered aircraft at the military base.
They also found that the Guptas did not have a Note Verbale, a letter from the authorities of a foreign country requesting the department of international relations & co-operation to allow for a delegation to land in SA for an official visit.
“We also found that not only was the aircraft that landed given permission to land, but there were other supporting aircraft, like fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, that were allowed to land at the base,” Sindane said.
“We did find that some of the actions of the Indian High Commission were consistent with the woolliness of how this trip was defined.”
The commission will continue to hear evidence related to the Guptas’ Waterkloof landing on Thursday.