EXCLUSIVE: Waterkloof landing 'fall guy' directly linked to Guptas

2017-05-29 16:11
Atul Gupta and President Jacob Zuma (File, GCIS)

Atul Gupta and President Jacob Zuma (File, GCIS)

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Johannesburg - The man at the centre of the Gupta family’s landing of a private aircraft at Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2013 has for the first time been directly linked to the controversial family. 

"Support whatever he wants," wrote an apparent Gupta insider in response to a request from Bruce Koloane, the government official who played a key role in helping the Guptas obtain permission to land a private aircraft at Waterkloof, for sponsoring the prizes at a private golf day Koloane appeared to have hosted last year.

The e-mail, which for the first time directly links the Department of International Relations and Co-operation’s (Dirco) former chief of state protocol to the controversial Gupta family, forms part of a huge batch of e-mails obtained by City Press, News24’s sister publication.

Koloane was suspended by Dirco in the wake of the Waterkloof debacle in April 2013 amid speculation that he’d become the “fall guy” for President Jacob Zuma, on whose instruction the landing of the Jet Airways plane was allegedly cleared.

However, Koloane was later controversially appointed as South Africa’s new ambassador to the Netherlands.

In January 2016, almost three years after the Waterkloof scandal, Koloane wrote an e-mail to Ashu Chawla, a director of several of the Guptas’ companies and one of the family’s longest-serving associates, in which the ambassador asked Chawla for a sponsorship of his upcoming golf day.

Golf tournament

"This year marks 20 years since I married my wife and [I] plan to host a golf tournament in December 2016 in Pietermaritzburg as part of my celebrations," Koloane wrote Chawla.

"I am writing to you to request your support in sponsoring some prices [sic] that I could use during the Golf Tournament. Should you be in a position to help, an indication of the type of prices [sic] you might be able to sponsor would help in the planning phase,” Koloane asked Chawla.

The Yahoo e-mail address used by Koloane is the same one listed in formal government inquiries into the Waterkloof debacle, including the SANDF’s 2013 board of inquiry into the matter.

This journalist also previously communicated with Koloane using the same address. Chawla forwarded Koloane’s request for the golf tournament sponsorship to a Gmail address that appears to belong to a senior insider within the Gupta fold.

“Support whatever he wants,” the person wrote to Chawla a day after Koloane’s original request.

Other e-mails in the cache of documents suggest that the person who responded to Chawla holds a position of authority within the Guptas’ business network.

The user of the account in question is at times addressed as “sir” and even as “boss” in e-mails from other Gupta associates and employees. The address is also included in other e-mails addressed to the likes of Tony “Rajesh” Gupta, the youngest of the three Gupta brothers.

CV sent to Chawla

On the same day in January 2016 on which Koloane asked Chawla for the sponsorship, the ambassador also sent Chawla an e-mail with the CV of one Advocate S’thembiso Kenneth Mdladla attached.

“I hope this mail finds you in good health. Please find attached herein a CV as discussed with the brother,” Koloane wrote Chawla.

News24 managed to reach Mdladla on his cellphone. He confirmed that he knows Koloane, but said that he had no idea why his CV would have been forwarded to a Gupta associate such as Chawla.

"Koloane is a distant relative of my wife. I have nothing to do with the Guptas, I don’t know why he sent my CV to that person," said Mdladla.

Koloane infamously stated that he had been under pressure from "Number One" to help obtain a clearance for the landing of the Guptas’ chartered jet at Waterkloof in 2013, a probe by Government’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster later showed.

Though it was widely believed that Koloane was referring to Zuma, the authors of the JCPS report accepted the office of the president’s denial that Zuma had in any way played a role in the debacle.

The report instead found that Koloane and a group of SANDF officers implicated in the saga "misrepresented" Zuma and his office when they tried to convince other SANDF officers that Zuma had personally approved the landing.

The report, however, never suggested why Koloane would have risked his entire career for the sake of helping the Guptas land their jet at the air base.

Chawla did not answer his cellphone or respond to text and WhatsApp messages. The Guptas' lawyer, Gert van der Merwe, did not reply to News24's queries.

Koloane did not respond to an e-mail sent to him by News24.

Read more on:    bruce koloane  |  gupta family  |  gupta emails

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