Officials cited ‘No. 1’

2013-05-23 00:00

THE man who supposedly masterminded the plan to allow the Guptas to land a private plane at Waterkloof Airforce Base claimed he was “under pressure from number one”.

Bruce Koloane, the suspended chief of state protocol, made this comment during a phone call to Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s political adviser on April 2 while trying to secure landing rights for the Guptas’ plane at Waterkloof.

He also reportedly told a senior air­force officer that a requested landing clearance “could not be put into writing”.

This came to light after the government yesterday released a report on its investigation into the landing of the chartered flight at Waterkloof.

The report reveals the three conversations — all of them references to President Jacob Zuma — which Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has labelled instances of “name dropping”.

Apart from Koloane’s reference to “number one”, he also phoned Sergeant- Major Thabo Ntshisi at Air Force Command to inquire about progress with the clearance request on April 9.

When Ntshisi said Waterkloof could only receive flights transporting heads of state and their deputies, Koloane said there would be “four to five ministers on board”.

“He added that the Minister of Transport, Mr Ben Martins, had been given instructions ‘by the President to assist the Gupta family’ [and] that the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans ‘has no objection’,” read the report.

When Ntshisi requested something to this effect in writing, Koloane responded that “the challenge was that this could not be put in writing”.

A further reference to Zuma came from the Commanding Officer of Movement Control at Waterkloof, Lieutenant-Colonel Christine Anderson, who, according to the report, told Ntshisi that “confidentially, I must be very careful now, our Number One knows about this. It is political. Allow them.”

According to the report, Anderson had phoned Ntshisi to find out why he had turned down the request.

The report places much of the blame for the irregular landing at the door of Koloane and Anderson, who abused the “political” clout of the national executive.

It completely clears the executive of any wrongdoing.

The report also directly implicates the Gupta family, who have consistently maintained that they followed all the correct procedures, in “manipulating government processes”.

“The aircraft in question was cleared for landing and the correct clearance procedures were followed, but based on false pretences as a result of the manipulation of the process by the Gupta family, individuals in the Indian High Commission, Koloane and Anderson, who shared a common purpose and acted in concert.”

The report states that Koloane later admitted that “neither the president nor officials in the presidency, whether junior or senior, minister and directors-general in Dirco and defence and military veterans had instructed him to assist with the landing of the aircraft”.

“He [Koloane] said that he did this because he is obliged to assist official and non-official visits involving ministers of other countries.”

It also found that Anderson’s reference to “Number 1” was “misrepresentation of the person of the president and his office”.

“The director-general in the Presidency made it clear that no one in the Presidency ever gave an instruction in this regard.

“This included the private office of the president.”

The report partly clears the involvement of law enforcement agencies in accompanying the Gupta wedding guests to Sun City because the 121 vehicles the Guptas used would have disrupted normal traffic.

It identified all the transgressions by moonlighting police officers who accompanied the wedding guests from the base, including those who were using their service weapons, those who were driving cars with false number plates and those who used illegally fitted blue lights.

The report notes that certain criminal investigations into the matter are still under way.

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said last night: “I have not seen the report … but there is no evidence that President Jacob Zuma was involved in that”.

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