Ex-protocol boss to blame for Waterkloof landing, Zondo hears
Bruce Koloane has spent this week at the commission, listening to evidence pointing to his role in enabling the landing at a strategic military installation.
Former chief of protocol Bruce Koloane is pictured at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, 03 July 2019. Picture: Refilwe Modise
More government officials have testified how then head of state protocol Bruce Koloane abused his position by subverting department of international relations and cooperation policies and procedures, which led to the illegal landing six years ago at the Air Force Base Waterkloof.
The Jet Airways chartered plane was carrying 200 Indian guests attending the Gupta wedding at Sun City.
In their testimonies yesterday at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, department senior foreign affairs assistant William Matjila and department of military veterans acting director-general Lieutenant-General Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi blamed the incident on gross disinformation by the disgraced diplomat.
Koloane has spent this week at the commission, listening to evidence pointing to his role in enabling the landing at a strategic military installation.
Matjila was several levels below Koloane at the time.
Matjila told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo the approval for the touchdown at Waterkloof only took a phone call from Koloane and an e-mail from his assistant, without the required note verbale.
Explaining how the landing occurred, he said: “I received a call from Koloane asking me to assist an Indian government delegation with clearance.
“Koloane would normally give me a note verbale before the processing of an official visit is done. The note verbale specifies who is coming, what they are here to do, and a protocol officer is assigned.
“It is also our duty to coordinate meetings to look at accommodation, transport and venues for visiting delegations. But in this case none of this was done.”
What followed was an e-mail from Koloane’s assistant which read: “Dear William, as per decision with ambassador Koloane with regards to request for flight clearance and landing at the Waterkloof Air Force Base of the Indian delegation, kindly note he has telephonically approved.”
The e-mail to Matjila was dated April 9, 2013 and he was asked to forward it to Major Thabo Ntshisi at the Waterkloof command post.
Ntshisi granted clearance for the plane to land “without the department’s involvement”.
“Did Koloane say it was a visit involving a head of state or ministers from India?” asked Zondo.
“No chair,” replied Matjila.
In his testimony, Mgwebi, who presided over the military board of inquiry into the saga to determine if government prescripts were violated, said: “Waterkloof Air Force Base is for heads of state. There must be a leader of the delegation.
“Koloane did not sign anything because junior officials dealt with a verbal approval and an e-mail.”
Among the findings of the military inquiry were that:
- Colonel Christine Anderson, who was based at Waterkloof, told Ntshisi the request was “known to Number One”.
- Defence intelligence officers failed to report plans for the landing and prevent it.
- Koloane misinformed junior officials about the visit “disguised as official”.