The former head of state protocol, Ambassador Bruce Koloane, told the chairperson of the commission of inquiry into state capture, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that he will draft and send letters to former president Jacob Zuma, Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and former minister of transport Ben Martins to apologise for using their names to exert pressure on officials at the department of defence to approve an illegal landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base.
Testifying at the commission on Tuesday, Koloane admitted to “wrongfully” using the names of Zuma, Mapisa-Nqakula and Martins to exert influence on officials to expedite the application process for a flight clearance for an aircraft carrying 217 guests to a Gupta wedding to land at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2013.
Koloane said though it was “too late” to pen the letters “to express his unwavering apology” for using their names, he would do so and would be willing to meet the three in person despite being ashamed of his actions.
Zondo questioned Koloane why at the time the landing was reported in the media he had not approached any media house to clarify that Zuma – and the two ministers – had not played a role in the Guptas landing at the air force base.
“At that moment my confidence in the media had been eroded because they had made allegations about me without tangible information,” Koloane said, explaining that one of these allegations was that the Guptas had bought him property outside of the country.
However, the ambassador conceded that he could have written to Zuma at the time to apologise for his actions.
Koloane highlighted to Zondo that on Monday he and his legal counsel had requested to listen to recordings of telephone conversations in which he is heard “dropping the names” of the ministers and former president in order to “refresh” his memory because during his testimony on Monday he told the commission he did not recall doing so.
He added that he returned to the commission on Tuesday to provide clarity on the matter and had not sought a postponement but rather appeared before the inquiry to tell the truth.
The first recording played and submitted as evidence at the commission was a telephone conversation between Koloane and Ntshisi, who at the time was a warrant officer. Koloane called Ntshisi on April 9, 2013, to inquire about the progress on an application by the Indian High Commission for clearance to land at the airforce base.
In certain parts of this recording, Koloane can be heard responding to Ntshisi’s comment that the air force base could only receive flights transporting heads of state and their deputies by saying the Indian delegation would include ministers from that country. Koloane further told Ntshisi that Martins had been instructed by Zuma to assist the Guptas with the landing. The ambassador is also heard telling Ntshisi that Mapisa-Nqakula had no objections to the landing.
In another part of the recording, Ntshisi asks Koloane to put his request in writing, which the ambassador responded by saying he could not do due to certain challenges.
After the recordings had been played, evidence leader at the commission advocate Thandi Norman questioned Koloane what was the challenge of putting this request to Ntshisi in writing.
Koloane responded by saying he did not want to put the request in writing because he knew he had wrongfully used the names of the two ministers and the former president.
Koloane is heard in the recording telling Ntshisi that Anderson was aware of the landing, to which the major responded by saying he would confirm this with the colonel who was in charge of the air force base.
Another recording played at the commission is a telephone conversation between Anderson and Ntshisi in which the colonel is heard questioning the major why he had rejected the ambassador’s request.
Anderson is also heard saying “our number one knows about this”, referencing Zuma.
Koloane had earlier told the commission that since he had used the names of Zuma, Martins and Mapisa-Nqakula, it was possible that he could have “dropped” the same names in conversation with Anderson.
Anderson is also heard explaining that the landing was linked to a “private visit” approved by the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) which meant the landing was “not a problem”.
Ntshisi is heard in another recording informing Koloane that he had confirmed the landing with Anderson and would complete the application, which was approved on the same day.
Another recording played at the commission is that of Ntshisi speaking to an individual identified as “Sarah” in which the major is heard, in some parts, trying to secure employment at Dirco.