Waterkloof landing: Officials should have said 'no, this is not on' - top official

2019-07-04 17:03
Ajay and Atul Gupta. (Gallo Images)

Ajay and Atul Gupta. (Gallo Images)

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While witnesses at the state capture inquiry have been flip-flopping around whether they received a proper, or any, note-verbale, which would have seemingly allowed the Guptas to land their commercial aircraft at Waterkloof military base, a senior department official has thrown this argument out the window.

Lieutenant General Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi, who is the acting director general of the military veterans department, was the president of the justice, crime prevention and security board of inquiry into the 2013 Gupta Waterkloof landing. The aircraft had carried about 200 guests who attended the infamous Gupta wedding at Sun City.  

Testifying on Thursday about the processes that should have been followed in granting clearance for the aircraft, Mgwebi pointed out that Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson, South African Ambassador to the Netherlands Bruce Koloane who was the former head of state protocol during the landing, and Major Thabo Ntshisi should have acted before the plane even landed.

"Do we work on verbal approval? Do we work on emails? The answer is no..." he told the commission.

"An officer sitting at the level of lieutenant colonel should have known that, a sergeant major with the experience of Ntshisi should have picked that up and they should have said 'no, this is not on' and then they should have requested for better formal information coming from Dirco [the Department of International Relations and Cooperation]. They didn't."

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

For the past two days, the commission has heard witnesses debating whether they received a note-verbale approving the landing. An email was sent from Koloane to William Matjila, Dirco's senior foreign affairs assistant, and finally to Ntshisi who gave clearance for the landing, but this was not a note-verbale.

A note-verbale is a diplomatic correspondence written in the third person but is unsigned.

While Ntshisi, who testified at the commission on Wednesday, said even though he had not received a proper note-verbale, he still went ahead with processing the request to land the aircraft at Koloane's directive.

Ntshisi, in his testimony, said Koloane had indicated he should "go ahead with the request because it comes from the highest rank".

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

Mgwebi, however, told the commission that everyone involved should have, nevertheless, expressed their concern and reported irregularities.

"It became quite clear that in terms of the policy framework, there was a gap. What then the air force was utilizing was a standard operating procedure that then gives you boxes to tick … and the challenge with that standard op procedure is that the people at a lower level are the ones who determine [this]."

He continued: "But the interesting part about that, is that if there is anything untoward it is expected that they report to the senior controller, the senior controller must report to the commander of the air force base command post who then reports to the chief of the air force."

No one, however, reported non-compliance.

Ntshisi testified at the commission on Wednesday that he was not satisfied with the approval he had received, but went ahead with processing the clearance anyway on Koloane's directive.

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