Written instruction for landing was slow to come

2013-10-03 00:00

THE head of state protocol did not want to send a note verbale to the air force command post on the Gupta flight, because it could not be recorded in writing that “the president” had approved it.

Warrant Officer T. Ntshisi explained in his statement to the military inquiry investigating the Gupta landing that he had experienced a lot of problems in getting the note to authorise the flight.

Ntshisi said he received the request on April 4 from the Indian High Commission to authorise the flight.

He contacted William Matjila, who is in control of foreign visits at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.

Ntshisi said the Indian military attaché, Captain Shaji Kutty, constantly called to ask about the authorisation.

Ntshisi asked Kutty who would be on board and he said “four or five ministers.”

Matjila referred Ntshisi to Bruce Koloane, former head of state protocol, for authorisation.

Ntshisi eventually got hold of Koloane and explained to him that Waterkloof may only be used by heads of state and their presidents.

Koloane then confirmed that it was a challenge to issue the note verbale because it could not be put in writing that President Jacob Zuma had authorised the flight.

“He said Lieutenant-Colonel Christine Anderson will confirm it. She said Number One knows of the flight and that I must allow the flight,” Ntshi­si said.

Ntshisi is one of five air force members who may be court-martialled if the army’s legal division finds sufficient grounds for prosecution.

Koloane called Ntshisi to confirm that he had spoken to Anderson, after which Ntshisi issued the authorisation, sending e-mails to the personal e-mail addresses of Matjila and Koloane.

Lieutenant-General Jeremiah Nyemba, head of Defence Intelligence, said in his evidence it was in retrospect clear that certain authorisation processes had been circumvented.

“The request was sent at the same time to many different departments and offices. It created the impression that the request was known to all the departments.”

Nyemba said the confusion was compounded after the Department of International Relations and Co-operation indicated that the request was known and had been approved.

He admitted that the various air force units did not communicate with each other, which helped the plane

load of civilian guests to land at the air force base.

Nyemba said it was uncommon for military attachés and embassies to contact army units directly to arrange events and he had taken steps to prevent such contacts in future.

He said the Guptas’ plane was not properly authorised and the air force had unknowingly cleared it to land. Nyemba admitted there were worrying gaps and mistakes that they had to rectify.

“Our national security has been partly compromised by the incident.”

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