Gupta Waterkloof landing: Nkoana-Mashabane recommended Koloane as ambassador despite abuse of powers

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. Picture: Tebogo Letsie/City Press
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. Picture: Tebogo Letsie/City Press

Former international relations and cooperation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has told the state capture inquiry that she only became aware of the Gupta’s Waterkloof landing in 2013 when it was reported on television.

Nkoana-Mashabane told the commission that despite former chief of state protocol Bruce Koloane’s admission about abusing his diplomatic powers in facilitating the Gupta Waterkloof landing in 2013, she still wrote to then president Jacob Zuma, recommending Koloane as ambassador to the Netherlands.

Nkoana-Mashabane, who is now the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, told the commission, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, on Thursday, that when she heard of the landing she was not worried about it because it didn’t affect her department.

She said when she learned that Koloane was in the area at the time of the landing, she sought clarity on this by calling Koloane, former Public Investment Corporation (PIC) boss Dan Matjila, and the head of the department’s human resources at the time “to understand what this was about”.

The jet was ferrying guests destined for the Gupta wedding in Sun City.

The minister agreed before the commission that she had informed the Zuma in her letter of recommendation that the recommended person (Koloane) was somebody that had played a role in the Gupta Flight landing at Waterkloof Air Base Centre.

Nkoana-Mashabane told Zondo that from the outset that she wanted to understand who sent Koloane to Waterkloof and that the former ambassador had said he was there on an oversight visit.

The minister said she was not happy with this and instructed Matjila that Koloane should undergo a disciplinary process, “which ensued”.

Nkoana-Mashabane said that at the disciplinary hearing, Koloane owned up but did not say “how he managed to do it”.

The hearing resulted in Koloane being sanctioned and punished, the minister said.

Nkoana-Mashabane told Zondo that she only heard at a later stage that Koloane had name-dropped Zuma to hoodwink officials into allowing the Gupta wedding plane to land at the airbase.

During his testimony at the commission in July, he admitted to name-dropping Zuma.

She also said that after the outcome of the disciplinary hearing she immediately removed Koloane from his position and that after he had served his suspension he returned to work but sat in the director-general’s office doing manual work that the director could have done.

“He never went back to where he was serving before as it was suggested in the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

Not only did Koloane admit to abusing the powers of his office, he also admitted to using Zuma’s name, as well as the names of two other ministers, to pressure officials to expedite the processing of the flight clearance request.

Nkoana-Mashabane also said Koloane had already faced his punishment by going through a disciplinary hearing, and then a suspension for two months without pay.

“He wasn’t sent to a big country. We sent him to a limited space … we had no other way of keeping him at home and doing nothing.”

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