A second day of submissions to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture heard South Africa’s most senior airman admit that the unauthorised landing of a chartered jet at a military base hurt.
SA Air Force (SAAF) Chief Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang is reported by Johannesburg daily The Citizen as telling Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo the March 2013 landing at AFB Waterkloof of the Jet Airways aircraft “hurt me”.
“It still hurts me. This was totally unacceptable. As chief of the air force it not only hurt me – it hurt the image of the national defence force and the country”.
The immediate institution of a military board of inquiry to “get to the bottom” of the landing was how the national military machine reacted.
Asked how he became aware of the request by the Guptas to land a private aircraft at Waterkloof, Msimang said it began with a meeting with the then political advisor to Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who asked for clarity on whether such a landing was legal.
“The minister’s advisor approached me to determine regulations and policies on landing at the base. I told him it would be irregular for wedding guests to land there because of national defence force protocols.
“Standard operating procedure determines the type of aircraft that can land there. That is where I left it.”
Zondo said: “There were people who knew it was not in line with procedure and practice to approve the landing of that plane. Anyone who wanted to do the right thing lacked the courage to say no.”
Msimang replied: “Arrangements hinged on trust. The right information has to come through. There were no checks and balances on how that request came to the air force.”
Retired Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, currently Department of Military Veterans Acting Director General, was at the time of the Gupta landing incident SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Chief. He is widely respected in national and international circles and was selected to chair the board of inquiry.
He is reported as telling the Zondo Commission “gross misrepresentation of the facts was found from the beginning”.
According to News24 Mgwebi said the request to land at the military base stated “it was ministers from states in India” who would be among passengers on the aircraft.
“They say ‘ministers from the central level’ – no names, no delegation leader and this is part of the discussion.”
Mgwebi is reported as saying the board of inquiry realised the air force and military intelligence knew about the request and its irregularities but had not reported it.
According to News24 Mgwebi named and shamed Lieutenant Colonel Stefan van Zyl, Colonel Christine Anderson and the current South African ambassador to The Netherlands, Bruce Koloane. At the time of the Waterkloof landing Koloane was director of protocol at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO). He said Van Zyl approved and authorised the landing without doing proper checks and had not complied with air force instructions and SOP (Standard Operating Procedure).