Johannesburg - Recorded calls forced former chief of state protocol Bruce Koloane into making a dramatic about-turn and offer to apologise to former president Jacob Zuma for using his name to facilitate the landing of Gupta wedding guests at a national key point.
Koloane on Tuesday announced that he intended apologising to Zuma, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and former transport minister Ben Martins for using their names to facilitate the landing of a Gupta chartered plane at Waterkloof Air Force Base in April 2013.
Koloane told the commission of inquiry into state capture that he was too ashamed to even look Zuma, Mapisa-Nqakula and Martins in the eye after he claimed they had approved the controversial Gupta family’s landing of a Jet Airways Airbus.
“I will apologise to them in writing,” Koloane revealed during his testimony at the inquiry chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
He said he resisted attempts by then sergeant-major Thabo Ntshisi, who was at the SA Air Force’s command post during the landing, to persuade him to use Zuma, Mapisa-Nqakula and Martins’ names in the request for flight clearance.
Koloane had earlier made a dramatic U-turn after the inquiry handed him and played several previously classified recordings, some of which have him putting pressure on other government officials to speedily process the request by the Guptas to land their wedding guests at Waterkloof.
“I did not come here to lie, I came here to tell the truth,” he assured Justice Zondo.
The recordings include Koloane, Ntshisi, former Indian High Commission defence attaché Captain Shaji Kutty and retired movement control officer at the air base, Lieutenant-Colonel Christine Anderson, discussing the authorisation for the landing.
Ntshisi even states in one of the recordings that Koloane must be informed that he is looking for a job at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.
Last week, retired Lieutenant-General Derrick Mgwebi, the department of military veterans’ acting director-general, told the commission that it was improper for Ntshisi to discuss defence force issues with a civilian and outside employment.
Koloane said he was still too ashamed by the incident and he could not get himself to look Zuma in the eye and say sorry.
Asked by Justice Zondo if he understood the serious nature of abusing the president’s and ministers’ names by claiming they had instructed or not objected to the landing, Koloane admitted it was a serious issue.
“It was wrong of me to use their names, not just to put pressure on the (SA National Defence Force) officials but it could taint the three. It’s a serious thing to use anybody’s name out of context,” he said.
Koloane said he wanted to be seen by the Indian High Commissioner as a person who could make things happen and to appease him. South Africa, Koloane explained, was part of the BRICS countries and there was a summit scheduled soon after the landing. “It was a wrongful act on my part,” he said.
Koloane said the landing also brought unnecessary pain to him, his wife and children and that his family had to undergo therapy.
“I erred in wrongly and wrongfully using the name of Mapisa-Nqakula, Martins and Zuma to try and exert pressure on the officials who were supposed to process the flight clearance (for the Gupta chartered aircraft),” he said.
Justice Zondo has asked that Ntshisi be recalled to clarify parts of his evidence while Anderson has indicated that she was unwilling to testify at the commission for her role in the incident.