News / South Africa / State Capture

Makhosandile Zulu
3 minute read
8 Jul 2019
3:20 pm

Dirco DG learned of Waterkloof landing through media reports, commission hears

Makhosandile Zulu

The witness says he had no knowledge of the movements and planned interactions of the Indian ministers that were guests.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Monday that the director-general (DG) of the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) only heard about the illegal landing six years ago at the Waterkloof Air Force Base through media reports.

The Jet Airways chartered plane was carrying 200 Indian guests attending the Gupta wedding at Sun City.

The DG at Dirco at the time was Ambassador Jerry Matjila, who on Monday took the witness stand at the commission.

Matjila told the chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that he became aware of a request by Jet Airways to land at the air force base after the plane had landed and “when the news and social media were busy”.

Normally, the DG is involved when heads of state are visiting South Africa, a matter which would be confirmed via a note verbale, the commission heard. The commission also heard that a note verbale was not furnished the application for the landing.

It was said that ministers from India would be among the Gupta guests.

Matjila said after he learned of the landing he invited the department spokesperson to brief him about it at a meeting attended by Ambassador Bruce Koloane, who was the head of state protocol at the time. He said he invited Koloane to the meeting because much had been said about him in media reports.

Matjila, Koloane and the spokesperson of the department then briefed former minister of international relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at her place of residence “until the early hours” of May 2, 2013, the commission heard.

After the meeting with Nkoana-Mashabane, Matjila then called the High Commissioner of India Mr Gupta, but it was found that he had no relations with the controversial Gupta family.

Matjila told the commission that he contacted Gupta to establish who had been on the aircraft because the department was not sure who they were and had heard that the guests included ministers and officials from India.

However, only state ministers from India, who are equivalent to South African MECs, were part of the guests, Gupta told Matjila, and these ministers fell under a different category, the commission heard.

Matjila said he also asked the High Commissioner of India if the Gupta family had requested him to facilitate the landing at the air force base, to which the commissioner said no.

Matjila and the High Commissioner from India then met at the DG’s office on May 3, 2013, for an in-depth discussion about the landing, the commission heard.

At that meeting, the commissioner appreciated the gravity of what had happened, Matjila said, adding that he, as Dirco DG, did not want the incident to sour relations between the two countries.

Matjila further said the commissioner apologised for his “oversight” on the note verbale not being attached in the application.

Matjila said that at the meeting with the commissioner, he also learned that some Indian ministers had chartered a flight to Cape Town and would travel from there back to their home country.

This made Matjila worried because he had no knowledge of it and South Africa could have been blamed had anything happened to those ministers.

Matjila told the commission that some Indian ministers had travelled to the Free State to meet their MEC counterparts, a matter he was “not privy” to because the entire visit had been “cloaked in secrecy”.

Zondo asked the witness whether his understanding that the Gupta wedding guests came on a “completely private” visit to South Africa was correct, to which Matjila responded positively.

“In this case as the DG, I had no hint as to who they would meet,”  Matjila said.

The commission also heard that disciplinary action was instituted against Koloane in relation to the landing.

On May 27, 2013, Koloane was served with a notice for a disciplinary hearing and three charges were brought against the ambassador, to which he later pleaded guilty to, the commission heard.

On July 29, 2013, sanctions were issued against Koloane, Matjila said.

ALSO READ: Ex-protocol boss testifies at Zondo commission about Waterkloof landing

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