State capture inquiry: Could Bruce Koloane's testimony lift the lid on state capture?

2019-07-08 08:48
Senior government official Bruce Koloane during his testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture. (Photo by Gallo Images)

Senior government official Bruce Koloane during his testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture. (Photo by Gallo Images)

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When South Africa's defence force allowed a commercial aircraft to breach national protocol and land at the Waterkloof air force base, the country was left vulnerable.

A national security threat, the infamous Gupta Waterkloof landing of 2013, went down in the country's history books as the palpable "launch" of state capture.

The aircraft carried more than 200 guests of the Guptas who were to attend the family's infamous Sun City wedding.

On Monday, the only person held responsible for the incident, Bruce Koloane (now SA's ambassador to the Netherlands) is expected to take the stand at the state capture commission of inquiry.

His testimony will be key to unfolding what really happened on that day and, if not its links to former president Jacob Zuma, then certainly its links to the Gupta family.

Despite an initial investigation by the justice, crime prevention and security (JCPS) cluster soon after the landing, implicating several high- and low-ranking officials, Koloane - then chief of state protocol - was the only person to be charged for the incident.

Koloane was charged with the contravention of the military code and as punishment, or reward, was promoted to his current ambassador position where, even now, his links to the Guptas cannot be denied.

Koloane, along with members of the national executive, the Gupta family, the Indian High Commission, Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson, who was the officer commanding movement control, and the South African Police Service were implicated in the report.

The JCPS report slammed Anderson and Koloane for their role. "The activities of Ambassador Koloane and Lieutenant Colonel Anderson were a serious dereliction of duty in that they were advancing the objectives of this project to the detriment of their official responsibilities," it reads.

READ: Government rattled by Waterkloof landing but learnt nothing - former justice DG

"Their activities also indicate the bringing to bear of undue influence on state officials, systems, equipment and infrastructure … they both grossly abused and undermined these processes."

For the past week, inquiry chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has heard the testimony of those who were involved in the landing.

The failures that lead to the gates of South Africa being left open for anyone to enter were pinned on "systematic failures" and as such, no high-ranking official had been implicated.

Responsible persons, the commission has heard, misrepresented the facts and withheld information to make it seem as though there would be VIPs and VVIPs on board the commercial flight.

Only VIPs and VVIPs can land at Waterkloof.

Lieutenant General Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi, the head of the JCPS investigation, told Zondo: "The clearance part of it also [regards] who are these people, what levels are they and are they in fact expected to land here … what becomes quite clear in this one, right through in the discussion [in the board of inquiry], it's just a delegation from India…"

Zuma's name, particularly, cropped up many times in the last week, with allegations that particularly Koloane, who attended the Sun City wedding, referred to Zuma’s desire to have the landing go ahead.

Koloane allegedly explained to Anderson that two ministers would be on board and that "Number One knows about the flight". He, on at least three occasions, said this to different officials.

READ MORE: Direct order from state protocol chief prompted Gupta's Waterkloof landing, Zondo commission hears

Anderson confirmed under oath in 2013 that 'Number 1' referred to Zuma.

Zuma's hand has seemingly been behind the Gupta landing, yet its links to Zuma have never been proven. While his name was used extensively to persuade officials to give the go-ahead for the Gupta's landing, high-ranking officials as well as Zuma's then spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, denied he had any knowledge of the event.

Koloane's links to Zuma have also never been proven, but many believe he is not only the "fall guy" for the entire landing, but for Zuma too.

At the time, the Presidency said Zuma never gave such orders to Koloane who, they said, was guilty of name-dropping. Why, then, did Koloane go to such extremes to help the Gupta family?

An exposé published by News24 in 2017 revealed Koloane and the Guptas' close ties, with the ambassador still securing business deals for the brothers in the Netherlands. This is according to the #GuptaLeaks and a string of emails between Koloane, the Guptas and their associates.  

While it may be optimistic to expect Koloane to reveal his connection to Zuma, his testimony could be key to lifting the lid on the inner workings of state capture. Koloane is perfectly positioned for this.

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Read more on:    bruce koloane  |  jacob zuma  |  johannesburg  |  state capture
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