South Africa: Gupta Wedding - 'I Was Not Satisfied With the Clearance for the Waterkloof Landing' - Major Thabo Ntshisi

Aircraft parked at South Africa's Waterkloof Air force Base which is considered a national key point (file photo).

Only three people are allowed to land an aircraft at Waterkloof military base - the president, deputy president or any person who is sent by the president on government duty.

This is according to Major Thabo Ntshisi who works at the military base's command post.

Ntshisi was testifying before the commission of inquiry into state capture about the controversial 2013 Gupta Waterkloof landing.

The incident saw commercial aircraft, chartered by the Guptas, landing at the base. They were filled with about 200 guests who attended a lavish wedding at Sun City in the North West.

Ntshisi added that only aircraft carrying heads of state or deputy heads of state were allowed to land at the base.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo tried to ascertain whether Ntshisi had any say in the matter and if he could have put a stop to it.

Ntshisi, speaking through a translator, said while he was not satisfied with the authorisation he was given by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), specifically by director-general Jerry Matjila, he added that he had no power to go against orders.

He said when he received authorisation for the landing, the note-verbale he received via email was different. A note-verable conveys a formal record verbally.

Ntshisi added that it did not clearly convey the reason for allowing the aircraft to land at Waterkloof, saying the go-ahead came in an email from Matjila and was not a note-verbale.

The only document that allowed you to go ahead was a note-verbale, however, according to him, the email read: "Go ahead with the request because it comes from the highest rank."

Despite this, Ntshisi said, they went ahead with the request because South African Ambassador to the Netherlands Bruce Koloane, who was the former chief of state protocol, and Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson had already given the go-ahead.

According to Ntshisi, Koloane told him that if Dirco approved they could proceed without the note-verbale. In this conversation, "Number 1" is mentioned and apparently "knows about the flight".

Ntshisi was then read transcripts from the board of inquiry into Anderson from 2013 that revealed scathing utterances from Ntshisi, which he claimed he never said.

The transcripts read: "We need to go ahead with that clearance. Although I was not happy with that response that is why I, even the second time, spoke to Lieutenant Colonel Anderson, she also confirmed that I must go ahead because the president authorised that flight."

However, Ntshisi said in his testimony that he had disagreed with these statements as it was not what he meant.

Also reflected in the transcripts was Ntshisi arguing that the sensitivity of the flight was not supposed to be on a note-verbale because it was a high security risk. He denied saying this too.

The commission is expected to continue with testimony on the Waterkloof landing tomorrow.

Source: News24

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