‘It felt like the base was captured by this Indian delegation’: witness describes Gupta Waterkloof landing

Ajay, left, and Atul Gupta. File photo

The witness says it was strange that it was mentioned that the then-president Jacob Zuma was aware of the landing.

Colonel Christine Anderson on Tuesday told the commission of inquiry into state capture that after guests to the Gupta wedding had landed at the Waterkloof Air Force Base on April 30, 2013, “at one stage it felt like the base was captured by this Indian delegation” due to the commotion that transpired.

Anderson gave evidence at the commission relating to certain aspects of the landing of the Gupta aircraft at the Waterkloof Air Force Base.

Anderson told the commission that she was based there from 2004 until her retirement, which came after she was placed on special leave on May 2013 following an inquiry into the controversial landing.

Anderson said towards the end of March or at the start of April 2013 she received a phone call at around 9pm from the self-confessed liar, former ambassador to the Netherlands Bruce Koloane, who at the time served as the chief director of state protocol, who enquired whether an airbus 330 could land at the base.

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Koloane’s name was brought into disrepute after he admitted to lying about “Number One” – then-president Jacob Zuma – to hoodwink officials into allowing the Gupta wedding plane to land at Waterkloof airbase.

Koloane called Anderson again to inform her that he would send a team for a site visit, which she said took place on April 2, 2013, and was conducted by Gupta associate Ashok Chawla and another gentleman, the commission heard.

Anderson said she was under the impression that the two, including Chawla, were officials from the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco), which would not have been out of the norm.

Chawla, Koloane, Anderson and two or three other gentlemen met again on April 22, 2013, and at the said meeting, the colonel went through the arrival and departure procedure followed at the base, the commission heard.

Anderson said that during this meeting she indicated to Koloane an overflight clearance had not been issued at that stage, which was required for the aircraft to land at the base. She said he received the clearance on the next day, April 23, 2013.

Koloane had informed Anderson that two fixed-wing aircraft and several helicopters, six or seven, including vehicles, would ferry the Gupta guests to Sun City, the commission heard.

Anderson said she did not find it strange that Koloane had told her that those onboard the aircraft would include ministers because they shared a very professional relationship.

She told the commission that once the aircraft had landed, she unsuccessfully tried to obtain a list of the passengers, who were not introduced to her and other officials at the base and so she could not determine if any ministers had disembarked.

“Even if I knew there were no ministers on board that flight, there was nothing I could do at that stage,” Anderson said.

Anderson told the commission that she has no knowledge of landings at the base where the aircraft did not have a president, deputy president, prime minister or minister, save for a landing in 2010 during the soccer World Cup, when an aircraft carrying the Netherlands football team landed at the base.

The helicopters arriving two hours early at the base, the large number of passengers welcomed at the base and the cultural event held for them, which included a group of dancers, are some of the indicators which alerted Anderson that the aircraft should have landed at a commercial airfield.

“At one stage it felt like the base was captured by this Indian delegation,” Anderson told the commission.

The commission heard that Koloane had told Anderson that Zuma was aware of the landing.

“I was under the impression that this was the wish of the president,” Anderson said, explaining that she wanted to ensure that Zuma’s wish materialised.

Anderson told the commission, however, that she found it strange that Koloane made mention that Zuma was aware of the landing as this had never happened before.

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