Ambassador Bruce Koloane, is seen at the state capture inquiry. File picture: Itumeleng English/African Agency(ANA).

Johannesburg - Bruce Koloane - the South African Ambassador to the Netherlands - has put the blame on the landing of the Guptas wedding guests at Waterkloof Air Base in April 2013 squarely on his former private assistant.

Koloane was one of the two witnesses billed to testify in the commission of inquiry into state capture headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. 

SA’s Ambassador to the UN Jerry Matjila was the first witnesses to testify as the landing happened while he was the director-general of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco).

In his testimony, Matjila told the Commission that he only became aware of the Guptas wedding landing post the event on April 30, 2013.

He said due to the landing having had attracted widespread attention which prompted a high-level intelligence investigations into the granting of the permission.

Matjila said the different departments such as defence, home affairs, Dirco and other entities which were supposed to be involvement in such events were roped in to conduct separate investigations.

The commission heard that Matjila then contacted the then High Commissioner of India - also a Mr Gupta - who denied that his government had anything to with the landing of Jet Airways at the Waterkloof Air Base.

According to Matjila, Dirco conducted its investigations and a decision was taken to charge Koloane - who was the departmental chief of state protocol - at the time of the landing.

Koloane was initially charged on May 2 following instruction of then International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

In less than two months, the commission heard that Koloane pleaded guilty to all three charges against him.

“Ambassador Koloane was given two months suspension without pay. He was also given a final written warning which was valid for six months,” Matjila said.

Matjila said he had no role in the disciplinary process against Koloane but had to implement the disciplinary outcome and sanction.

Before Judge Zondo, Matjila admitted that conduct of a similar nature at other institutions who have triggered a dismissal but said special circumstances existed in Koloane case.

According to him, Koloane was one the few post apartheid diplomatic mission offiicials who excelled in their work.

 Matjila said he noticed Koloane’s ability while still employed by the Department of Trade and Industry based in Japan and responsible for the Asian Mission.

“He was one of the people who managed to attract investment for the country in Japan and China and other Middle East countries,” Matjila said.

Clearly, Matjila and Koloane continued to have cordial relationships even after post the Guptas landing. They exchanged pleasantries after Matjila's testimony.

Ironically, though, Koloane’s evidence substantially differed with that of Matjila on the role of the high commissioner of India in the landing of the Jet Airways.

Koloane said it was the high commissioner who phoned him and complained about the delay of flight clearance for the Guptas landing. Koloane said his role was just to ask those responsible at the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to expedite the processing of the application.

He also denied that he instructed his private assistant to pen an email to senior officials in Dirco and defence saying he had granted permission for the flight clearance of the Guptas.

“It was just a misunderstanding between me and my PA. I did not have the legitimate right to order the defence to give a flight clearance,” Koloane said.

His testimony continues.

Political Bureau