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Johannesburg - Bruce Koloane, the man at the centre of the country’s national security scandal, was demoted for illegally authorising the controversial landing of a jet chartered by the Gupta family at the country’s strategic Waterkloof Air Force Base.
The Sunday Independent can reveal that Koloane, the chief of state protocol in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, has pleaded guilty to all charges, which included:
* Abusing state diplomatic channels by facilitating an illegal request for the landing.
* Misrepresenting facts during his “facilitation” of the illegal and unlawful landing of the said aircraft.
* Compromising the processes and procedures of his employer in that there was neither consultation nor recommendation from the relevant desk/department on the request for the landing.
He was subsequently removed as the chief of state protocol and served with a final warning. It is believed he will remain in the department, but at a position lower than deputy director-general.
He will forfeit two months’ salary when he returns from suspension in October and will be placed on a sixmonth probation.
Koloane was fingered by a government probe into the saga as central to the scandal that saw the politically connected Gupta family – who are close to President Jacob Zuma – illegally landing a private jet carrying their wedding guests at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria in April.
The saga sparked a national outcry, with the ANC demanding answers from the Presidency and for heads to roll.
Zuma indirectly defended the controversy, telling the party’s national executive committee that the air force base was not a national key point. Some senior party leaders privately said the president misunderstood that the military base’s security status was much higher than the national key points, which included civilian installations such as the SABC.
Koloane was suspended in May after preliminary investigations showed that he invoked Zuma’s name when junior officials questioned his decision to allow the Gupta jet and helicopters to land.
Koloane declined to comment this week. When contacted yesterday he said: “I told your colleague, I have nothing to say then, I have nothing to say now.”
International relations spokes-man Clayson Monyela said:
“This was an internal process. We can however confirm that the disciplinary process has been concluded.”
A senior government official, who cannot be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media on this issue, told The Sunday Independent that Koloane escaped dismissal due to the Department of Defence’s own role in the saga.
“The facility in question is owned and run by the military. Defence is a government department with its own reporting lines, plus rules and procedures.
“It still remains their call to say yes or no when approached with a request to land a plane at their facility after doing their checks and vetting procedures,” said the official.
He said indications were that the Department of Defence would find it difficult to fire any official for the incident.
“It was considered that a dismissal may not be appropriate for an outsider, despite the role Koloane may have played,” said the official.
In the stand-off between international relations and defence on the matter, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula refused to take the fall, forcing the government to institute an investigation conducted by security directors-general.
So far, no political leader has been held liable, as the government maintained there was no executive authority.
Koloane’s suspension was followed by the suspension of SANDF officials Brigadier-General Leslie Lombard, Brigadier-General Tebogo Madumane and Lieutenant-Colonel Christine Anderson.
Major-General Phumzo Gela, head of the SAPS Operational Response Services in Gauteng, was also suspended for allegedly authorising police vehicles to escort the Gupta motorcades after they landed, but was cleared and returned to work.
This was after an initial probe by the government found that Koloane had colluded with these officials, who were attached to the Waterkloof Air Force Base, to arrange for the illegal landing of the aircraft.
Nine Tshwane metro police officials were also served with final written warnings by the Tshwane metro police department for moonlighting for a private security firm that escorted the Gupta guests to Sun City.
The Tshwane municipality yesterday confirmed that all nine officers were back at work.
Two of the officers earlier lodged a R100 000 damages claim against Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa for what they said was wrongful arrest, but the status of the claim could not be independently verified.
Some of the officers tried to blackmail the metro into dropping the charges, saying they would leak embarrassing and explosive video footage.