Major Thabo Ntshisi appears before the state capture inquiry to give evidence in the Gupta Flight landing at the Waterkloof Military Air Base. Picture: Itumeleng English/African Agency(ANA)
Johannesburg - A key figure in the Gupta plane saga on Thursday remembered implicating former chief of state protocol Bruce Koloane as the person who pressured him to grant the controversial family permission to land its chartered flight.

Major Thabo Ntshisi, who was at the command post at the Waterkloof Air Force Base at the time, told the commission of inquiry probing state capture that he only recalled details of his testimony at an SA National Defence Force (SANDF) board of inquiry after listening to the recordings this week.

He denied being influenced by Koloane to give the Guptas clearance to land at Waterkloof.

“What made me recall what I told the board of inquiry were the recordings that were played at the commission,” Ntshisi said.

He still maintained that he did not give flight clearance due to pressure from anyone although he admitted that he was among the SANDF members pressured by Koloane.

“I am one of the people Koloane put pressure on to grant the flight clearance but I did not give flight clearance due to pressure from Koloane,” Ntshisi insisted.

Last week, when Ntshisi testified at the commission he distanced himself from the contents of the transcript of the board of inquiry convened by SANDF chief General Solly Shoke and chaired by Lieutenant-General Derrick Mgwebi after the Guptas’ plane landed at the national key point.

However, he sang a different tune on Thursday.

“What is written here right now I can agree with because I now can remember what I said at the board of inquiry,” Ntshisi told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Ntshisi confirmed that he recalled speaking to Koloane, who indicated to him that the sensitivity of the flight was not supposed to be on the note verbale due to a high security risk.

A note verbale is a form of diplomatic communication stating who is on the flight and what they will be doing in the country.

Ntshisi also confirmed the accuracy of the recordings of telephone conversations between him, Koloane and then movement control officer at Waterkloof, retired Lieutenant-Colonel Catherine Anderson.

The commission also heard evidence from retired Transnet electrical engineer Francis Callard after two of the state-owned freight, rail and logistics company's executives disputed parts of his earlier testimony.

Former executive finance manager Yousuf Laher and Yusuf Mohammed, general manager in the office of former Transnet chief financial officer Anoj Singh, sought to punch holes in Callard's evidence but have not applied to cross-examine him.

Callard said he was shocked and astounded that China South Rail was in line to get up to 60% upfront payment before delivering even one of the locomotives it was contracted to supply.

Laher, a chartered accountant, said he rejected insinuations made by Callard in his evidence.

In his statement to the commission, Laher said Singh told him that Transnet had funding available for the prepayment and that advance payments were affordable.

Laher, who was part of the team negotiating the purchase of 1064 locomotives, claimed Callard never expressed shock or surprise at the prepayments.

According to Laher, he only learnt that the initial R38.6billion price for the locomotives which was approved by the board in January last year that it included foreign exchange and escalation.

But Callard said it was normal to include foreign exchange and escalation and that it would have been unusual for a project not to do so in a project of this magnitude.

“It is common knowledge that locomotives have a foreign exchange component in them,” he said.

Political Bureau