The infamous and apparently illegal use of AFB Waterkloof by an airliner chartered by the Gupta family more than six years ago this week again hit the South African national psyche – complements of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo heard submissions from a number of people apparently involved in authorising the landing at the base in Centurion, south of Pretoria. They include Major Thabo Ntshishi stationed at the SA Air Force (SAAF) Command Post when the Gupta chartered airliner landed and a former director-general in the then Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Nonkululeko Sindane.
The major, who was a warrant officer in 2013, is reported as saying only aircraft carrying heads and deputy heads of state were allowed to land at the base.
Ntshishi, speaking through a translator, said he was not satisfied with authorisation given by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), specifically by then director-general William Matjila, he had no power to go against or disobey orders.
He said when he received authorisation for the landing a different note verbale was received via email. A note-verbale is a diplomatic note drafted in third person. In this case, it was drafted by current South African ambassador to The Netherlands Bruce Koloane, who was head of state protocol at the time the landing and the one of two people involved found guilty. The other is now retired Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson. She was movements control officer at Waterkloof.
Sindane told the Commission about the Cabinet Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster (JCPS) investigation into the landing. She reportedly said it was a practice that could cause South Africa “serious damage”.
A Johannesburg-based news site reports her as saying the “entire incident” (the apparently unauthorised landing) “would never have happened if senior names were never used”. This was apparently in reference to the use of “Number One” in telephone conservations which was taken by those involved to have been a reference to then president Jacob Zuma.
“Our conclusion was, in this particular event, there was lack of professionalism in how people dealt with their responsibilities and we are encouraging people to deal with these issues and report them.
“The JCPS cluster then concluded some of the behaviour displayed during the process could almost be unethical or ascribed to a lack of professionalism. If not, then I would even argue it was outright reckless in how it was undertaken,” she is quoted as saying.