AS IT HAPPENED: Transport ministry 'does not have authority over Waterkloof air base' - Ben Martins tells #StateCaptureInquiry

2019-07-02 12:30

Air Traffic Navigation Services chief Hennie Marais followed former transport minister Ben Martins at the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, with testimony related to the Guptas' aircraft landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

WATCH LIVE: State Capture Inquiry 

(Courtesy of SABC)

Raymond Zondo chairs the state capture inquiry

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Last Updated at 02:14
02 Jul 12:46

Zondo adjourns proceedings for the day. The commission will resume tomorrow morning at 10:00.

02 Jul 12:44

Marais, in conclusion, explains the mandate of ATNS. 

Advocate Norman asks him if he knows if ATNS was paid for their services, and Marais confirms that he was informed that an invoice was issued, and they were paid for their services.

With that, Marais' evidence wraps up. He is thanked for his time, and excused by Zondo. 

Advocate Norman and Zondo now discuss which witnesses are meant to follow - it doesn't look like there will be anyone else today, and Zondo expresses his dissatisfaction with inefficient planning. 

02 Jul 12:38

Marais says ATNS focuses mainly on safety and efficiency, so he would not know who would have imposed a fine for a lack of a foreign operator's permit, if any, to the Gupta aircraft.

02 Jul 12:23

02 Jul 12:12

Marais explains all the technical information regarding call signs and naming conventions from the flight plan. Marais says the aircraft would have gone from Indian air space, to the Seychelles' air space, Mozambican air space, and then finally, South African air space.

02 Jul 12:01

Marais progresses to the next video/set of graphics, and moves closer to explaining the flight pattern that the (Jet Airways) Gupta aircraft would have followed going into the Waterkloof air base. 

02 Jul 11:47

The commission was meant to play a video provided by Marais, but apparently doesn't have the equipment to do so at the moment, so Marais is now directing his evidence with a graphic on screen displaying air space and flight patterns, including Air Force Base Hoedspruit, which Marais explains is protected air space. 

02 Jul 11:43

Advocate Norman now directs Marais' testimony back to what would happen if an aircraft flew from Indira Gandhi International Airport (in Delhi, India) to South Africa. 

Marais says first of all, there would need to be direct contact between the airport in India and in South Africa, regarding the flight plan, and at prescribed intervals along the way.

02 Jul 11:41

02 Jul 11:34

Back from the break, Marais continues with his testimony, explaining the functions of ATNS and air traffic controllers. 

02 Jul 11:17

Marais explains the responsibilities and duties of ATNS. Marais says their chief responsibility is safety, and then efficiency. 

Zondo takes advantage of a break in testimony to call for the morning adjournment. 

Back in 15 minutes.

02 Jul 11:11

The next witness, Hennie (Hendrik) Marais is now sworn in. Marais is "Chief of Air Traffic Navigation Services" (ATNS).

Marais now summarises his qualifications and background to the commission.

02 Jul 11:09

Martins is referred to one more document, which he reads out as a document from the "International Air Services Act of 1993", and Martins tells Zondo he has not seen this particular document before. 

Martins is thanked for his time, and excused. 

02 Jul 11:05

Asked about any of his other interactions with the Guptas, Martins says he also once attended some sort of cultural food fair at one of the residences at the Gupta compound in Saxonwold. 

Martins clarifies with Zondo that he had never been to the Guptas' Sahara offices, and he never facilitated any business for them in his capacity as transport minister or deputy minister of public enterprises.

02 Jul 11:00

Martins says at no stage did he give "anyone instructions to allow the landing". 

Martins: "The ministry of transport, or the minister of transport, does not have authority over Waterkloof air base, it falls under the Department of Defence and Military Veterans."

It appears that wraps up Martins' evidence for now. 

02 Jul 10:54

02 Jul 10:53

Norman asks Martins when he first received the call from the ATNS (Air Traffic and Navigation Services) official, regarding the Gupta plane landing.

Martins: "If memory serves me well, I received the call from the ATNS official after the plane had landed at Waterkloof air base, and after the wedding proceedings had been in process for a day or two. It was during the time - they were supposed to be in the country for four days or five days - but during that period, I think it was the second day, I speak under correction, when I received a call from an official from ATNS one morning to say that here's this plane that was in the country, which did not have the correct papers..." 

Martins says that in the event someone doesn't have the correct papers, or the foreign operators' permit, there is a fine to be imposed, and he said "Go ahead, impose that fine". 

Martins says it was the first and only time he ever had to do that.

02 Jul 10:46

02 Jul 10:46

Martins' evidence shifts to an interaction he had with one of the Gupta brothers over a Prasa tender. Martins says he advised them to pose any questions or raise any concerns with Lucky Montana at Prasa.

Martins says he also had "interactions" with the Guptas at The New Age/SABC breakfasts, when he was Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises and his department was invited at that time.

02 Jul 10:38

02 Jul 10:34

Martins makes reference to a meeting at OR Tambo Airport, where Tony Gupta was present, and ambassador (Bruce) Koloane was also present, as well as (acting CEO of ACSA) Mr Bongani Maseko "and myself". 

Martins says the meeting took place at the InterContinental Hotel near the airport. One of the things discussed at the meeting was the welcoming/reception ceremony that the Guptas had wanted to happen on the tarmac as guests disembarked from the plane.

Martins says he told them that the authority lies with Home Affairs, in this regard. 

Tony Gupta's reaction was "Are you really denying the guests of the president, and the friends of the president, the opportunity to have this welcoming ceremony there"?

Martins says he told them irrespective of whose friends or guests it was, permission could not be granted. And that's how they parted from the meeting.

02 Jul 10:24

Advocate Norman asks Martins when he first became aware that the Gupta family wanted to land their aircraft at Waterkloof. 

Martins: "The first time I was aware, in regard to the Waterkloof landing, was when an official of the air traffic navigation services called me to say that the plane had entered South African airspace without a requisite permit. But in regard to the landing of the Gupta plane at Waterkloof air base, I read it in the newspapers. I was not formally informed."

02 Jul 10:21

Martins unpacks the way the Department of Transport works, and how he oversaw certain processes in his role as minister.

02 Jul 10:15

Martins has gone through some corrections to his statement with Advocate Norman, and now summarises his qualifications and background before proceeding with his testimony.

Martins confirms that he is aware the questions posed to him will be framed around the "Waterkloof incident" from 2013, around the time he was the minister of transport.

02 Jul 10:09

Former transport minister Ben Martins is sworn in. Today's evidence is expected to focus on the Gupta family's controversial plane landing at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2013.

02 Jul 10:06

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has taken his seat, and gets proceedings under way. Advocate Thandi Norman will be leading evidence on behalf of the commission's legal team, and is currently discussing procedural matters with Zondo, before the witness is sworn in.

02 Jul 09:58

02 Jul 09:58


Truth of Gupta Waterkloof landing never told – DA's David Maynier 

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been the target of a public outcry over the past few months, with questions being raised about her fitness to hold office.

Now, her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, has raised questions about why Mkhwebane closed her investigation into the justice, crime prevention, and security (JCPS) cluster probe into the Gupta Waterkloof landing in 2013.

In an article published in Business Day on Tuesday, the newspaper quoted Madonsela as saying: "The truth is the investigation was completed and all we needed was a report. How after that they closed the investigation is a mystery." 

Western Cape Finance MEC David Maynier of the DA originally laid the complaint with the Public Protector in 2013 and says he does not support Mkhwebane's decision.

02 Jul 09:58


State capture: 'Putting pressure on NPA amounts to interference' - Lamola 

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola says if he is to put pressure on the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to make arrests in state capture cases, it will be tantamount to political interference.

He insists prosecutors must be guided by the evidence before them in taking decisions on who and when to charge.

In a wide-ranging interview with News24 on Monday, the recently appointed minister stressed the independence of the NPA. 

Political interference at the NPA has been a concern over the past decade and the issue of whether the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) is accountable to the minister was a key topic at the Ginwala inquiry. 

02 Jul 09:58


Do you mean 'blacks can't cook?' asked ex-SAA board chair Dudu Myeni 

Former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni was opposed to the 2015 appointment of LSG Sky Chefs as airport lounge catering company and wanted the contract to be awarded to a subsidiary of the national carrier, the commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Monday.

According to testimony by former acting CEO of SAA, Thuli Mpshe, an irate Myeni had demanded to know why the contract was not awarded to Air Chefs, and called for a "comprehensive review" of the tender, citing support for local companies.

Upon the granting of the tender, Myeni had confronted Mpshe, asking how had Sky Chefs been appointed, stating that SAA had an obligation to its rival Air Chefs. 

Mpshe told the commission that Air Chefs had not been not considered for the bid as they had failed to meet the minimum requirement for the three-year tender, which was worth R85m.

02 Jul 09:58


'You are not his mouth' – The day Madonsela tried to corner Zuma 

On October 6, 2016, then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela summoned all her experience, calm and maturity to try and conduct a formal and productive interview with Jacob Zuma, who was president and the central figure in allegations around state capture.

It wasn’t easy for the normally unflappable Public Protector, who had struggled for months to get an audience with the head of state. She had been blocked and thwarted at almost every turn, and now had to contend with Michael Hulley, Zuma’s legal contortionist, too.

After Madonesela explained the context and legal implications, Hulley launched into arguments why the interview with Zuma should not go ahead. He explained that the time given to his client to consider the allegations made against him was inadequate and that he wanted to respond to them substantively.

Zuma, Hulley argued, also has not had sight of the evidence brought against him and would need to look at it before formulating a response. 

02 Jul 09:58


Zondo Inquiry: How tensions over Mumbai-Joburg route pushed SAA into agreement 

Former South African Airways (SAA) CEO, Sizakele Mzimela, told the state capture commission of inquiry on Wednesday of the tension caused by the proposal to terminate the Mumbai-Johannesburg route, specifically between SAA, former Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba and Gupta-linked company Jet Airways. 

Back and forth meetings between the two companies eventually culminated into a code-sharing agreement where both parties benefited. The agreement, however, was not struck before SAA got an opinion from the Competitions Commission, she said. 

Mzimela told the commission that after an initial meeting was held at the Department of Public Enterprises with Gigaba as well as Jet Airways CEO, Naresh Goyal, a second meeting was held at SAA. 

The meeting, Mzimela said, was called abruptly by Gigaba and Mzimela made her way to Cape Town without knowledge of what was to be discussed. Once she got there, Gigaba told the gathering that he had a few issues to discuss but first wanted an update on the Mumbai-Johannesburg route. 

02 Jul 09:58


Zondo commission trying to 'ambush and humiliate' Jacob Zuma, says lawyer 

Former president Jacob Zuma's lawyer Dan Mantsha has accused the state capture commission of inquiry of an "unfortunate attempt at instigating the public" against his client.

In a letter Mantsha wrote, which News24 has seen, the former president said the commission's decision to issue a media statement amounted to "nothing but a disinformation campaign and an unfortunate attempt at instigating the public against our client". 

Zuma has confirmed that he will attend the commission on July 15 to 19 even though the commission will not furnish him with questions in advance, which he requested.

But, in a statement released on Thursday, the commission said it took the position that it was enough that the former president would be afforded an opportunity to state his side of the story in response to certain identified witnesses who testified or gave statements or affidavits about issues that relate to him. 

02 Jul 09:58


Jiba tried to dig up dirt on her NPA boss Nxasana, state capture inquiry hears 

Former deputy prosecutions boss Nomgcobo Jiba ran a campaign against former National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Mxolisi Nxasana in pursuit of his post, which was promised to her, the state capture commission of inquiry heard on Wednesday. 

"My appointment only came into effect in October, so I had the whole of September in Durban before I took office.

"I heard that there were people driving around Umlazi, stopping people and asking them about me and my history, as well as my involvement in a murder case around 1985," Nxasana told the commission. 

The murder took place in 1985 and he was acquitted in the Durban Regional Court in 1986. He was 18 at the time.

02 Jul 09:58


Former NPA boss appointed a day after submitting CV, Zondo commission hears 

Former NPA boss Mxolisi Nxasana was appointed National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) a day after he submitted his CV, the state capture commission of inquiry heard on Thursday. 

"I remember I was running a trial at Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal when I received a call from Michael Hulley on August 30, 2013, who asked for my CV, which I then sent. 

"He told me that the president was under pressure to appoint someone to the office of the NDPP and he intended to announce my appointment," Nxasana told the commission. 

Hulley was former president Jacob Zuma's legal advisor at the time. 

02 Jul 09:58


SABC sold 100 hours of footage to ANN7 for 'peanuts', Zondo commission hears 

Former ANN7 editor Rajesh Sundaram, who was tasked with kick-starting the channel, has told the Zondo commission that the station obtained 100 hours of archived footage from the SABC at a "throwaway price".

Sundaram was testifying for a second day at the commission of inquiry into state capture on Tuesday.  

He told inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that, when he helped set up the station, he had concerns that a new station needed footage.

He claimed that Infinity Media shareholder Laxmi Goel had told him that the Gupta brothers and former CEO of Oakbay Investments, Nazeem Howa, had a "very sweet" deal with the SABC. 

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