In his autobiography Memory is the Weapon, legendary South African author and poet Don Mattera remembers early life in the then Western Township – now known as Westbury, which is a mere stone’s throw away from The Citizen newsroom, where I work.
In the book, Mattera brings back vivid memories of life in Sophiatown – “mansions and quaint cottages, which stood side-by-side with rusty wood and iron shacks”.
While Materra could vividly remember our historic and painful past of forced removals in the suburbs of Westbury, Newclare and Bosmont decades ago – so well documented in his book – Bruce Koloane, our ambassador to the Netherlands, this week had to get his memory “refreshed” by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
He had to be confronted with audio telephone recordings of conversations he had with Major Thabo Ntshisi and Colonel Christine Anderson six years ago, for him to admit that his earlier testimony was a lie.
In what amounted to clear bulldozing and abuse of power – despite concerns raised by Ntshisi that there was no note verbale in existence for the aircraft to land – Koloane used his position to force two officials to land the aircraft under the guise of an instruction from “Number One”, in reference to former president Jacob Zuma, with two cabinet ministers – Ben Martins and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula – being “okay with it”.
The past two weeks have seen us being reminded of not just a mere plane landing at an airport, but the landing of the Jet Airways chartered airbus at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2013, a landing that breached national security in one of the country’s strategic military installations.
By law, no one is allowed to land at Waterkloof without being a visiting head of state, deputy president, a king, queen or a special envoy, without what is known in diplomatic circles as a note verbale – a necessary document that sets out a purpose for your visit, who you are here to meet and your daily movements.
Listening to chilling testimony in the past two weeks at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on what it took for the plane carrying guests from India of the infamous Gupta family, here to attend a wedding at Sun City – to borrow from an expression by chief of the SA Air Force General Fabian Msimang – is “still hurting”.
“Abomination” has often become a remark Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has used in reference to how ANC leader Ngoako Ramathlodi saw things unfolding during his testimony.
I am angered to think that Koloane – now rewarded with a plum diplomatic job – misused his position and office by forcing the two junior SA Air Force officials to grant clearance for flight JAI 9900 from Indira Gandhi International Airport to land where our sovereignty became vulnerable.
Imagine your taxes going towards paying for Koloane’s perks and salary – chauffeur-driven in a sedan and enjoying the trappings of high office miles away from South Africa with such a short memory.
Koloane may owe Zuma an apology for having misused his name in the aircraft landing, but he surely owes the nation more.