‘Number 1’ colonel to sue state

2013-05-26 14:01

Air force official fight to clear her name as minister opts out of Gupta breakfast

A “furious” air force colonel at the centre of the Guptagate scandal will sue government for saying she used President Jacob Zuma’s name.

Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson has decided to file a damages claim for defamation after she was criticised in government’s report into the landing of a private jet carrying guests for the Gupta family wedding at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

Pikkie Greeff, the national secretary of the SA National Defence Union, yesterday confirmed that Anderson will instruct her attorneys to sue.

The criminal justice sector’s report into the landing – made public this week – accuses Anderson of colluding with the Guptas and the chief of state protocol, Bruce Koloane, in obtaining irregular permission for a plane carrying Gupta wedding guests to land at Waterkloof.

Despite the fact that Anderson is accused of a “serious dereliction of duty”, City Press can reveal that she was only sent five questions by the investigating team that made the adverse finding against her.

The team didn’t interview her, but acting government spokesperson Phumla Williams said that Anderson was approached for an interview.

“She (Anderson) wished to consult with lawyers. Subsequent to this, she did not volunteer herself for any further interviews. The investigating team didn’t see any need to engage with her further,” Williams said.

The questions posed to Anderson do not relate to any of the negative findings made against her in the report.

Greeff told City Press the methodology of the report was completely wrong and that much of its content relating to Anderson was false.

“(The report) is against all rules of natural justice, against rules of testing evidence (and) against the rules of giving someone a chance to hear their side of the story,” he said.

The section of the report that criticises Anderson relies on an interview with Sergeant Major Thabo Ntshisi from Air Force Command Post.

It states Ntshisi initially refused Koloane’s request for the plane to be given clearance to land in mid-March.

Anderson then allegedly returned a phone call from Ntshisi during which she, it is claimed, asked him how he could refuse a request from Koloane.

“Anderson then states that ‘in confidentiality (sic) I must be very careful now, our Number One knows about this. It is political. Allow them’,” reads the report.

Ntshisi then proceeded with granting the clearances.

Anderson remains suspended, pending the findings of a board of inquiry.

Greeff told City Press Anderson was not available for comment.

» At the same time, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson cancelled her participation in a business breakfast event hosted by the Gupta family’s The New Age newspaper and SABC2.

The minister was scheduled to speak about food security at the event in Cape Town on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the paper still advertised that Joemat-Pettersson would speak at the event, but on Thursday it advertised, in the same slot, a breakfast with International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on the same day.

A senior official in Joemat-Pettersson’s department told City Press he suspected she cancelled the event because of the controversy surrounding the Guptas.

But the minister says the event had never been on her diary and denied cancelling it.

Her deputy, Pieter Mulder, said he was invited to attend the briefing but declined because he felt uncomfortable about attending.

Nkoana-Mashabane’s spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, said she approached the SABC about a breakfast slot on SABC2’s Morning Live to coincide with her budget speech, but was told this had to be in partnership with The New Age.

“This is not our decision, it is the SABC’s decision. We use Morning Live every year around budget time, and were told it comes as a package with The New Age,” he said.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago denied that ministers wanting to appear on Morning Live had to do so in partnership with The New Age.

“We still have ministers and guests on the show, so I don’t think that is a true reflection of the arrangements.”

The New Age’s managing editor, Gary Naidoo, did not respond to messages.

Williams said there had been no directive from government to departments to stop advertising in The New Age or to stop appearing at their business breakfasts.

She said the Guptas had not been convicted of any crime.

National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega confirmed to City Press that criminal cases emanating from Guptagate do not involve the Guptas.

Guptagate, blow by blow

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