Nkoana-Mashabane recommended Koloane as ambassador despite admission that he abused his powers, Zondo commission hears

SA ambassador to the Netherlands, Bruce Koloane, who was chief of state protocol at the time of the Guptas' plane landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base. (Gallo Images)
SA ambassador to the Netherlands, Bruce Koloane, who was chief of state protocol at the time of the Guptas' plane landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base. (Gallo Images)

Despite former chief of state protocol Bruce Koloane admitting that he abused his diplomatic powers in order to facilitate the Gupta Waterkloof landing in 2013, then-minister of international relations and cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane still wrote to former president Jacob Zuma, recommending him as South African ambassador to the Netherlands.

Testifying before the state capture inquiry on Thursday, Nkoana-Mashabane told the commission that when she nominated Koloane, she did not state in the nomination letter to Zuma that he had played a significant role in the Waterkloof landing debacle. 

However, she said she had informed Zuma about Koloane’s involvement in the landing via discussions.

Nkoana-Mashabane is now the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities.  

The Gupta family landed a commercial aircraft at the air force base without permission. It carried about 200 guests who were invited to attend the family's lavish wedding at Sun City.

READ: Waterkloof landing: 'I abused the powers of my office,' Koloane admits

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.

Defending her decision to nominate Koloane, the minister said: "How do I keep the person coming to work and doing nothing, and [has] experience?"

She said Koloane was not the only nominee, adding that there were 17 others.

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.

"But we [were] also considerate of the fact that it cannot be that he is going to be in a space where he can have an opportunity to repeat the same mistake."  

ALSO READ: 'I am still too ashamed to face Zuma', Koloane explains at #StateCaptureInquiry

She also told inquiry chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that Zuma had the powers not to appoint Koloane.  

"He (Koloane) was not appointed in secret. Post-nomination, there is a six-month period where the head of state can change his mind. He is not obliged... a nomination is a suggestion, he can say 'no' to anybody," she said. 

She also told Zondo that Koloane had confessed to what he had done wrong and never wasted anyone's time.

Koloane resigned as ambassador after being recalled by Dirco over his testimony at the state capture commission.

In 2017, News24 reported further details of Koloane's close ties to the Guptas and that he was 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.

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