Johannesburg - Former minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says she learnt of the infamous April 2013 Gupta Waterkloof landing from TV.
Nkoana-Mashabane was testifying at the Zondo commission on Thursday. She testified she only became aware of a jet landing at the Waterkloof base on TV and that at first, she was not concerned.
The jet was carrying guests who were to attend a wedding for one of the Gupta relatives in Sun City.
The landing caused widespread controversy and shone a light on the Gupta family’s influence and raised questions around the family’s relationship with former president Jacob Zuma.
Nkoana-Mashabane explained that she was not concerned about the landing because it was not diplomatic, as that would have required her office’s involvement.
She said what sparked her concern was when she heard that the head of protocol Bruce Koloane was at the base at the time of the landing. She said.
"I got to know that an aircraft had landed on television. I immediately called the then-DG, who's the ambassador in New York now (Jerry Matjila),” she said.
She immediately wanted to know what Koloane was doing at the base at the time of the landing. The minister said she then called the HR department.
Koloane was then placed on suspension for two months. He was charged with abusing diplomatic channels to facilitate the illegal request to the land the private jet at Waterkloof. He was also charged with misrepresenting facts, compromising processes and procedures of his employer. He pleaded guilty to the charges.
Nkoana-Mashabane said of Koloane’s reasoning for his actions: "Never (explained). Save to own up. He's been owning up and not getting to say how he came to do this. He opened up and, again, he owned up and that's when he got sanctions."
Koloane was later moved and appointed as the ambassador to the Netherlands. When he appeared at the inquiry, he had admitted at the Zondo commission that he abused diplomatic channels and lied to senior defence officials to facilitate the landing for the family.
He said he had name-dropped former president Jacob Zuma's name to pressure officials to fast track the landing at Waterkloof.