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Johannesburg - Why has Bruce Koloane, the man the government says orchestrated the landing of a private jet at Air Force Base Waterkloof, been let off with a slap on the wrist, and why has he not been called as a witness in the state’s case against the military officials still facing charges?
“I should think the most obvious conclusion is that the man is being protected, and the question is, why?” the lawyer for the five air force officials facing a military tribunal over their alleged role in the Guptagate scandal said yesterday.
Pikkie Greeff, also the spokesman for the SA National Defence Union, said that by Koloane’s own admission, and according to the findings of the task team appointed to investigate the debacle, the former chief of state protocol committed fraud.
“… this man committed fraud, because that’s what it is, in order to do a personal favour to people, and that favour essentially came down to breaking a whole host of sections of the Defence Act in terms of trespassing on military premises, breaking national security, placing that at risk, and so on.
“So there’s a whole host of criminal offences that flow from the doing of this favour. Oddly, he’s not being prosecuted for it,” said Greeff.
Koloane was reported in August to have pleaded guilty to charges including abusing state diplomatic channels by facilitating an illegal request for the Jet Airways aircraft carrying wedding guests of the powerful Gupta family to land at the base, misrepresenting facts to facilitate the illegal landing, and compromising the processes and procedures of the International Relations and Co-operation Department, where he was the chief of state protocol.
He was demoted and served with a final warning.
Greeff said the public were being asked to believe the government was “perfectly comfortable with retaining him in their employ, in the same department, despite this massive breach of trust and despite prima facie criminal offences being committed by him”.
“How likely is that?”
Greeff was commenting after Lieutenant-Colonel Christine Anderson, the woman accused in the government task team’s report of colluding with Koloane to facilitate the landing, said in a sworn affidavit that the former top diplomat had told her President Jacob Zuma had been aware of the plan, and had personally inquired about progress shortly before the wedding.
Greeff hit back at Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj, who has poured scorn on the affidavit, which he called “hearsay”.
“I think Mac is missing the plot. Colonel Anderson is not saying as a fact that Zuma spoke to Koloane about the flight. She’s merely saying under oath what Koloane told her,” Greeff said.
It would be hearsay if she had said she had heard Koloane had spoken to the president.
“So I don’t know why Mac gets so defensive about it, and berates the entire affidavit as false.
“The fact of the matter is he’s got no proof that Koloane did not speak to Anderson, he’s got no proof that Koloane did not tell her this and thirdly, his own spinning suggests that Koloane admitted on at least two occasions to lying to Anderson and everybody else in using Zuma’s name.
“So he’s contradicting himself,” Greeff said.
Greeff had earlier tweeted in response to Maharaj’s comments on radio yesterday morning: “Uncle Mac does not know that there is far more evidence than an affidavit. Smile and wave Mac, there is a bus right behind you.”
Asked whether this meant there was more evidence to come, he said: “Yes, there is.”
He said to prove Anderson had colluded with Koloane, the state would have to show she had known Zuma was not aware of the plan, that she and Koloane had been on “a frolic of their own”, and that she had influenced colleagues at headquarters to act in accordance with misleading information.
“Now if they don’t call Koloane, then how on Earth are they going to show that, because he’s obviously the vital witness in this whole issue.”
Even if Koloane was called, he could stick to his version that he had lied and name-dropped, in which case Anderson and her co-accused would be in the clear as it would show they had been misled. Or he would go back on his admission that he had lied, and say Zuma knew about it.
“That would put our officers in the clear anyway,” he said.