Waterkloof landing: Facts were misrepresented to get approval, Zondo commission hears

2019-07-05 08:03
Military aircraft at the Waterkloof air force base. (Herman Verwey/Gallo)

Military aircraft at the Waterkloof air force base. (Herman Verwey/Gallo)

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Lieutenant General Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi, the acting director general of the military veterans department and head of the justice, crime prevention and security (JCPS) cluster investigation, testified on Thursday at the commission of inquiry into state capture.

The investigation is delving into the 2013 landing of a commercial aircraft at Waterkloof air base, which carried 200 guests who attended the infamous Gupta wedding at Sun City.

During the investigation, Mgwebi testified, they found gross misrepresentation of the facts from the beginning. "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…"

He said the request stated that it was just "ministers from one these states [in India], and they say, 'ministers from the central level' - no names, no leader of the delegation - and this is part of the discussion among themselves right through".

Mgwebi continued that, in their investigation, they realised that the air force and military intelligence knew about the request and its irregularities but had not reported it. This could be seen, he said, when Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson allegedly told Major Thabo Ntshisi about the request and mentioned "Number 1".

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

Mgwebi said Anderson did more than just participate in approving the request.

"She began to change the furniture [at the military base] without telling anybody … in the lounge because there was going to be a reception. So, she decided to change that and decorate it the way it was expected.

"She then allowed cultural groupings and then photographs, people with cameras came in, and then a number of cars came in. Again, nobody seems to be aware except Anderson in this particular case," he revealed.

Mgwebi then turned his attention to Ntshisi.

He said Ntshisi knew what was going on and that the request was irregular, but he had misled his superiors to get approval.

"The sergeant major [as he was ranked then], when we asked all these questions, it became quite clear that he was aware of what was happening, but the information shared with [Lieutenant Colonel Stefan] Van Zyl was not, in fact, a reflection what he was aware about all the time.

"On his side, he did not necessarily share everything. But again, Van Zyl had a responsibility that he was a senior person and he was [accountable] and responsible for what he does. Looking at that SOP [standard operating procedure] and looking at the boxes that needed to be ticked [in the processes that needed to be followed], he had a duty to ask the relevant questions."

READ: They 'manipulated the system' to make it happen - former justice DG on Guptas' Waterkloof landing

Mgwebi then named and shamed Van Zyl, Anderson, South African Ambassador to the Netherlands Bruce Koloane, who was the former head of state protocol during the landing, and Ntshisi.

He said Van Zyl approved and authorized the landing without doing the proper checks and had not complied with air force instructions and the SOP. Ntshisi, he added, had facilitated and influenced the approval of the request with the knowledge that it had not complied with air force instructions and the SOP.

Mgwebi added Anderson had advised Ntshisi incorrectly and influenced him by mentioning "Number 1", and finally, he said, there was misinformation coming from Koloane in his assertion that it would be VIPs and ministers landing at the base.

Mgwebi added that the board of inquiry had not interviewed Koloane because he was scheduled to appear before a government inquiry into the landing and the conclusion about him had been drawn from interviews with other people.

Koloane pleaded guilty to the contravention of the military code and was later appointed as the ambassador to the Netherlands. He was the only person involved in the incident to be charged.

On the actual landing, Mgwebi said those involved had plenty of time to report it even after the aircraft had touched down.

"The first thing, you've got seven helicopters landing very early in the morning and then you've got two fixed-wings landing later on, and you then get to know that those in command at a higher level than those within the base, do not know what's happening.

"And then two hours later, that airbus - since it wasn't approved by the minister [but] the chief of the air force was aware, and the chief of intelligence was aware and the chief of the defence force was aware…

"So, the aircraft would not have landed two hours later, they would have picked the first ones and they would have known that something is wrong. You can't just have seven helicopters landing in a base and nobody reported it."

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Read more on:    johannesburg ­  |  state capture  |  gupta family  |  gupta wedding
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