State capture 'fall guy' denies wrongdoing over Guptas' Waterkloof landing

08 July 2019 - 16:06 By Amil Umraw
Bruce Koloane, former chief of state protocol, at the state capture inquiry in Parktown, Johannesburg, on July 3 2019.
Bruce Koloane, former chief of state protocol, at the state capture inquiry in Parktown, Johannesburg, on July 3 2019.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/The Sunday Times

Former head of state protocol Bruce Koloane has denied any wrongdoing in the landing of a privately chartered airplane by the Gupta family at the Waterkloof Air Force base in 2013.

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Koloane, who was suspended from the position and later appointed South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands by former president Jacob Zuma, described to the state capture inquiry on Monday his version of events leading up the controversial landing.

Koloane has been at the centre of allegations set out by various witnesses before the commission over the past two weeks. They alleged that Koloane put pressure on them to approve the landing without proper processes being followed.

Koloane, who was suspended from the position and later appointed South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands by former president Jacob Zuma, described to the state capture inquiry on Monday his version of events leading up the controversial landing.

Koloane has been at the centre of allegations set out by various witnesses before the commission over the past two weeks. They alleged that Koloane put pressure on them to approve the landing without proper processes being followed.

But Koloane told the commission that he was told a ministerial delegation from India was arriving in South Africa and had requested permission to land at the air force base.

"I came to know about the request for the landing when former Indian High Commissioner Virendra Gupta called me and informed me they had applied for a flight clearance for landing at Waterkloof, and it had been six days and they have not received a response. He told me it was for a ministerial delegation," he said.

"The first thing I did was to call my PA. I said to her that I just got a call from [Virendra Gupta] who was complaining. I told her can you please follow up with our official who deals with these issues. I was under the assumption that the Indian High Commission had submitted all the documents to [the Department of International Relations and Cooperation]."

It is believed that the former Indian High Commissioner does not share any relation with the controversial state capture-implicated Gupta family, even though they share the same surname.

"She [Koloane's personal assistant] called me and said DIRCO doesn’t know anything because they [the Indian High Commission] haven’t sent anything. I called the [High Commission] and they said they sent it directly to [the Department of Defence]. I then asked to be given the number and the name of who they sent it to so I could then call," Koloane told the commission.

He says he was put in contact with Command Centre Flight Post officer Thabo Ntshisi. Ntshisi told the commission last week that Koloane pressured him to allow the flight to land.

"I had no sight of any documentation. I said to him (Ntshisi) please can you help because the [High Commission] is on my case, can you please process this application. I was out of my office... I think he (Ntshisi) was already aware of the application, that’s the impression I got," Koloane said.

"I think he said something to the effect that there was no Note Verbale attached. All I remember saying if there is an issue with the application, revert back to the [High Commission]. Mine was to say to him please can you expedite processing the flight clearance application you received from the [High Commission]."

The commission previously saw evidence in the form of an email from Koloane's personal assistant sent to various senior officials. In the email, Koloane is said to have approved the landing.

"I take note of the email my PA sent, which was either a misunderstanding on her side, or my failure to explain it properly to her… Because the email she then sent approves the landing of the flight... which I don’t have the  authority to do. I had no legal mandate whatsoever to dictate to any government department," Koloane said.

His testimony is continuing.


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