5 key questions

2013-10-04 00:00

Yesterday, The Witness and sister newspaper Beeld revealed evidence by senior officers at a military inquiry that implicated ‘Number One’, the president, in arrangements for a plane hired by the Gupta family to carry guests, to land at Pretoria’s highly sensitive Waterkloof air force base. The Presidency continues to deny Jacob Zuma had a hand in Guptagate but questions remain to be answered.

1. Are security measures at Waterkloof air force base

up to standard?

EVIDENCE before the military inquiry that may lead to the military prosecution of five air force members, indicates that spying technology could have been planted at the base.

Unknown people, whose motives were not known to the security personnel, wandered about on the base with cameras and other electronic equipment after the Gupta landing on April 30.

For some reason, the normal VIP security guards were “unavailable” on that day. The closed circuit television camera system was also out of order.

The inquiry further states that the foreign embassies and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation apparently had open access to any division of the Department of Defence — including Waterkloof.

The inquiry’s findings state this was how the Indian High Commission and Bruce Koloane, former head of state protocol, could make requests for R500 000 worth of aircraft fuel; decorations for the VIP arrivals hall; and entertainment on an operational flight route.

When the Guptas landed, everyone except the staff of the base was in control of events, one of the security squadron’s senior staff members said.

It was also found that the commander of Waterkloof, Brigadier-General Tebogo Madumane, maintained a laissez faire attitude so that “things on the base happened without him being aware of it”.

2 If neither senior officers nor Zuma gave orders for the Gupta landing to go ahead, whose idea was it?

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma is the Commander in Chief of the defence force and must take note of the possible dismissal or punishment of two and perhaps five senior soldiers who have devoted their lives to the air force.

Lieutenant-Colonel Christine Anderson and Warrant Officer Thabo Ntshisi and three other military officers could lose their jobs for their alleged “individual interest” in authorising a private plane to land at the base.

Madumane, who is the boss at Waterkloof, but who has been criticised for his lack of leadership and knowledge of events at his base, is not one of the five officers who face military prosecution. No one knows why.

Brigadier-General Les Lombard, commander of the air force command centre where Ntshisi generated his “authorisation” and for which Lombard must take responsibility, is also not being investigated by the military inquiry. The inquiry recommended that Lombard should receive a disciplinary hearing because he neglected to set right errors under his command.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stephanus van Zyl, also of the command post and tasked to authorise flights, is being prosecuted, although he had hardly been in the post a month. His legal team wants to know how he could be held responsible for the Gupta landing when he did not even have time to settle into his post. Colonels Debra Khumalo and P.E. Nkosi of the air force’s foreign relations division are being prosecuted because they lied to the inquiry.

3 Why is Bruce Koloane, former head of state protocol,

back at work if he is the ‘main liar’ in Guptagate?

FROM the evidence of Lieutenant-Colonel Christine Anderson and Warrant Officer Thabo Ntshisi, Koloane was was the one who said “Number One” — which implies President Jacob Zuma — wanted the Guptas’ plane to land.

He was also the first official to be suspended in the initial investigation of the Gupta landing.

The initial investigation as well as the military inquiry had found that Koloane and Anderson were both guilty of using Zuma’s name to get the landing authorised.

Koloane has since admitted to lying about Zuma wanting the Guptas’ plane to land at an air force base and he has been demoted to a lower post in the same department. He lost two months’ salary and he is on six months’ probation in his new post.

Spokesperson for State Protocol Clayson Monyela had not yet reacted to repeated queries about the precise charges against Koloane and why he is still employed in the department.

4 Why did the air force officers apparently

go out of their way to facilitate the Gupta flight?

THE preliminary investigation of the military inquiry found that Ntshisi had authorised the flight because he hoped to get a post in the International Relations Department.

In the summary of the inquiry’s findings, there is a sudden reference to a recorded telephone call in which Ntshisi asks an “unknown woman” in Koloane’s office if she can use her influence with Koloane to secure a position for him. On the basis of this discussion, the board found he was motivated by personal gain.

No such motivation existed for Anderson, who is was just months from retirement after 25 years’ service in the air force.

She is held responsible for authorising the landing. Her only defence is her own argument that she did it because Zuma ordered it, via Koloane.

The inquiry claimed her transgressions included the use of the air base’s red carpet, the misuse of the VIP lounge for a private function, its decoration and furnishing, allowing a cultural group to enter a restricted military area, and allowing people to take photographs without supervision.

The inquiry recommended that she and Ntshisi be charged with the misuse of state resources and corruption.

When the preliminary investigation concludes today, the director of military prosecutions must decide whether all five should face court martial, and if anyone else should prosecuted.

5 How does the president plan to repair the damage the landing of the Gupta wedding guests at a military base has caused to the state and defence force image, and how will he ensure that national security is not compromised again?

THE military inquiry into the Gupta landing has found that the public belief in the defence force’s ability to ensure national security has been severely damaged.

The inquiry stated that the air force leadership owes the nation an answer as to why so many senior officers knew nothing about the landing.

This includes the office of the chief of the army, General Solly Shoke, and the Ministry of Defence.

The inquiry said it was incomprehensible that intelligence staff at the base were uninformed and did not raise the alarm to report it to higher authorities.

The respect of other countries’ representatives in South Africa must also be restored.

The inquiry found no evidence of documents outlining how requests for private landings need to be handled.

It also found that the Indian High Commission had sent three letters with requests to the air force’s division for foreign relations. These were not processed in a way that informed the air force top structure that suitable action could be taken.

One division of the air force turned down the request, while another welcomed guests with cultural dancers.

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