The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) today started its board of inquiry following the apparently unauthorised landing of a chartered jet at Air Force Base Waterkloof on April 30, which was carrying Gupta family wedding guests.
This was disclosed by SA National Defence Union (Sandu) general secretary Pikkie Greeff. The military trade union is defending one of the three SA Air Force officers suspended from duty in the wake of what has become known as “Guptagate” and it appears the inquiry’s outcome will not be the end of the matter.
A chartered Airbus A330 carrying about 200 members of a wedding party from India bound for Sun City landed at the Centurion air force base, which has subsequently been identified as a strategic military installation and not a National Key Point, as originally stated by ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe at the beginning of May. The landing and subsequent escorting of wedding guests to the North West casino resort attracted widespread criticism from political parties (including the ruling party) as well as trade unions, NGOs and the general public.
Government’s first response, following reaction to the incursion, was to suspend three SA Air Force (SAAF) officers as well as Ambassador Bruce Koloane, Chief of State Protocol in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation. This was followed by the announcement of a multi-department investigation into “Guptagate”, due to the involvement of the Gupta family.
The investigation was headed by Mr DT Dlomo, acting director general of the State Security Agency; Ms N Sindane, director general of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; Mr T Moyane, national commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services and Dr CG Swemmer, acting co-ordinator for intelligence as a co-opted member. The team were ordered to finalise the investigation and report within seven working days.
The SAAF officers are SAAF Command Post Officer Commanding, Brigadier General Les Lombard; Brigadier General TS Madumane, Officer Commanding AFB Waterkloof, and Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson, AFB Waterkloof movements control officer.
SANDF Director: Corporate Communication Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga pointed out the SAAF officers have not been suspended.
“They have been placed on leave by the instruction of General Solly Shoke, SANDF Chief,” he said in response to a defenceWeb enquiry.
The SANDF board of inquiry is in line with recommendations made by the investigating team that “all departments and entities must complete their investigations into this matter as soon as possible to ensure justice is seen to be done and the required disciplinary measures are fully implemented where deemed necessary”.
Greeff told defenceWeb that Sandu was acting on behalf of Anderson.
“She compiled a statement that was submitted to the board and her presence was requested at today’s hearing. She is attending with a Sandu lawyer,” he said.
“A complaint will today be lodged with Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela by Lt Col Anderson. While I am not at liberty to divulge either her statement to the SANDF board of inquiry or the Public Protector complaint, I can say the second has to do with the method of investigation followed by the investigating team.”
There is no indication of how long the SANDF board will sit. Mabanga said it is “ongoing”.