No 1 named in Guptagate again

2013-10-06 14:00

New evidence that?‘Indian delegation’ was to meet Zuma

Seven helicopters carrying Gupta family wedding guests were authorised to fly from Air Force Base Waterkloof because the “Indian delegation” was to meet “No 1” in Pilanesberg, North West.

This is among the revelations in a report by the board of inquiry that did a preliminary investigation into the controversial landing of the Guptas’ private jet at Waterkloof.

The discussion about the seven helicopters is in a declassified email sent by Brigadier General Les Lombard, the officer commanding the air force command post, to the chief of the SA Air Force, Lieutenant General Fabian Msimang.

In the email, dated May 1 2013 – a day after the plane landed – Lombard wrote that he urgently needed “guidance” on whether “further flights by civilian helicopter from AFB Waterkloof to Pilanesberg, where the delegation is to meet No?1, was approved based on initial interactions” with then chief of state protocol Bruce Koloane.

It has also emerged that the board wants the defence department to lodge a formal complaint with the department of international relations and cooperation against Koloane for “misleading” air force officials to authorise the landing.

Koloane was the first to claim that he was “under pressure from number one” while trying to secure the landing of the plane back in April. He has since been demoted after a disciplinary hearing found he had used President Jacob Zuma’s name in the saga.

The board also wants Captain Shaji Kutty, the Indian High Commission’s defence attaché, to “never again write directly to the (SA National Defence Force) or the department of defence” because Kutty irregularly sent the request to the air force instead of the foreign relations unit.

The board also found that:

»?The red carpet treatment, normally reserved for presidents and heads of state, was rolled out for Gupta guests at the insistence of Lieutenant General Christine Anderson, Waterkloof’s movements-control officer; and

»?The closed-circuit television camera system was not working on the day of the landing because it was being upgraded, a concern for safety and security.

Anderson was the first to face the military court’s preliminary investigation panel this week. This investigation is to determine whether there is enough evidence to press formal charges against five defence officers.

Afrikaans daily Beeld broke the news that, in her affidavit, Anderson for the first time directly implicated Zuma as knowing about the landing. She claimed that Zuma was Number 1 and that this was a reference used in the defence force for security reasons and that Koloane had told her he had met Zuma who wanted to know if “everything was on track” with the Gupta flight.

In another revelation, Major Elsie Makgopela, an officer with the 504 Protection Squadron, told the board that she raised security concerns with her commander, Lieutenant Colonel YC Govender.

She was worried, Makgopela testified, about journalists from India who arrived with the Gupta guests and were allowed to use cameras in the VIP area.

Govender’s response was that “the Guptas are rich people and there is little we can do”.?The board said in its recommendations that Govender should receive a “negative office” on his service record – a sanction – for “not showing any interest or leadership on what was going on (at) the base”.

The report also reveals that, of the five officers who face being charged regarding their roles in the landing, only Warrant Officer Thabo Ntshishi had a “motive” for unlawfully authorising the plane to land because he had asked Koloane about a “job opportunity” before granting permission for the landing.

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