Zondo commission looks at Waterkloof Gupta landing report

File picture: Gupta brothers, Ajay and Atul.

File picture: Gupta brothers, Ajay and Atul.

The witness says the report concluded that some officials behaved unethically and there was a lack of professionalism and outright recklessness which led to the landing.

The commission of inquiry into state capture on Wednesday heard evidence from Nonkululeko Sindane, the former director-general (DG) of the department of justice and constitutional development, who was part of the Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster task team that investigated the Gupta landing at the Waterkloof Air Base in 2013.

The team was instructed to report its findings within seven working days.

Sindane categorically clarified to the commission that during the team’s probe into the landing, both ambassador Bruce Koloane and former minister of transport Ben Martins said that former president Jacob Zuma did not instruct them nor did he give an insinuation that he as the president wanted them to assist the Guptas with the landing.

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Sindane said the team found that Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) had been right in denying the Guptas their request for landing rights and “an elaborate reception for the wedding party” at the airport.

ALSO READ: Tony Gupta wanted ‘welcoming ceremony’ for Zuma’s ‘guests and friends’ at OR Tambo

The report reads: “It is an undisputed fact that there was no note verbale from the Indian High Commission to the department of international relations and cooperation [Dirco], and therefore the due process was not followed.

“An individual in the Indian High Commission communicated directly with individuals at the air force base command post. The collusion of officials resulted in the irregular approval of the flight clearance.”

Sindane said it was also found that ministers were not required to approve or sanction the landing, with the report stating that the ministers also “did not issue any instructions, and did not create the impression that they ought to have issued any instructions”. Sindane told the commission that that responsibility rested with Koloane.

The report also reads: “The aircraft in question was cleared for landing and the correct clearance procedures were followed, but based on false pretences as a result of the manipulation of the process by the Gupta family, individuals in the Indian High Commission, Chief of State Protocol, ambassador V.B. Koloane, and officer commanding movement control at the base lieutenant-colonel C. Anderson, who shared a common purpose and acted in concert.

“This had the potential of damaging the good diplomatic and deep historical relations South Africa enjoys with India…”

Sindane said another finding was that there were supporting aircraft which landed along with the Jet Airways charter flight “which ordinarily would not be normal”.

Sindane told the commission that the supporting aircraft had been funded by the Gupta family and not the South African National Defence Force nor the South African Police Service.

Besides police vehicles, vehicles that escorted the guests were privately funded by the Gupta family, the commission heard.

The report reads: “The activities of ambassador Koloane and Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson were a serious dereliction of duty in that they were advancing the objectives of this project to the detriment of their official responsibilities.

“Their activities also indicate the bringing to bear of undue influence on state officials, systems, equipment and infrastructure.

“This influence happened despite the denial of the exercise of undue influence by the legal representative of the Gupta family.

“The roles of the two individuals had a similar effect in that due to their seniority and knowledge of departmental systems and processes in their respective areas, they both grossly abused and undermined these processes.”

Sindane said it was also found that the chief state protocol working closely with Anderson had sought the necessary approvals from Ntshisi and “really did more than what they were required to do to ensure this landing [took place]”.

The commission also heard that power had been abused in that the powers of the office of the ministers and the presidency were used to persuade junior officials to carry out certain tasks to ensure that ultimately the aircraft landed at the airbase.

The ministerial offices were that of Martins and then minister of defence Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula.

The report recommended that all investigations into the landing should be concluded timeously and necessary disciplinary action should be taken.

It was also recommended that the air base should not be changed into a national key point.

“Government led by the department of public service and administration should develop and implement a public service awareness campaign to discourage the negative culture of namedropping in the form of improper use of names of the national executive in the public sector.

“In addition, the definition of acts of misconduct should be amended across government to include namedropping as gross misconduct.”

Sindane told the commission that in conclusion, the report stated that there had been a lack of professionalism leading to the landing.

“We then concluded that some of the behaviours … could almost be unethical … or ascribed to a lack of professionalism … or almost outright recklessness,” she said.

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