Investigation underway into civilian use of AFB Waterkloof


Forty-eight hours after a breach of security, in terms of the apartheid-era National Key Points Act, a top government official apparently implicated in facilitating the arrival of a privately chartered airliner at AFB Waterkloof has been suspended.

The hunt for those involved in what appears to be a highly irregular aircraft movement has been expanded, following calls by the ruling ANC as well as other political parties and a military trade union.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula today ordered an investigation into why the SA Air Force (SAAF) was approached with regard to landing clearance and associated matters for the charter aircraft flying guests into South Africa via AFB Waterkloof for a wedding at the Sun City resort.

She also ordered clearance for the Jet Airways Airbus A330 (VT-JWG) to be rescinded and it to be “immediately removed” from the base.

Mapisa-Nqakula’s instructions came only hours after the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) suspended Chief of State Protocol Ambassador Bruce Koloane, reports News24. The suspension follows a preliminary report into events surrounding the arrival of the aircraft at the SAAF’s Centre of Transport Excellence on Tuesday.

Explaining her decision, Mapisa-Nqakula said the SAAF dealt with a “request” from Dirco in terms of established protocol for foreign dignitaries to use the Centurion air force base. She said that Sahara (a company owned by the Gupta family, which has taken over a large part of the Sun City resort for the wedding) approached her for assistance in approving a request for airport use that would be sent to the Indian High Commissioner. She rejected this approach.
“It (the request) was not even formalised and the Defence Ministry considered the matter closed. It was our advice that the Airports Company of SA (ACSA) was best placed to assist,” she said, adding “it was never our (the Defence Ministry’s) expectation that attempts would then be made to find other avenues to secure the use of the air force base through diplomatic channels”.

According to Mapisa-Nqakula, the request was handled directly through AFB Waterkloof “without consultation of either the Chief of the SA National Defence Force, the Chief of the SAAF or the Ministry”.
“The Ministry would never have approved such a request and our expectation would be that for a matter involving such a large foreign delegation, consultation should have been made with Defence headquarters or, at least, SAAF headquarters.”

Apart from the “immediate” removal of the civilian jetliner from AFB Waterkloof, she gave no timeline for the investigation.