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Bruce Koloane says he was wrong to name drop to allow Guptas to land at Waterkloof

Bruce Koloane, former chief of state protocol, testifies at the state capture inquiry in Parktown, Johannesburg, on July 8 2019.
Bruce Koloane, former chief of state protocol, testifies at the state capture inquiry in Parktown, Johannesburg, on July 8 2019.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/The Sunday Times

State capture-implicated former head of state protocol Bruce Koloane has admitted that he neglected normal administrative processes to allow the Gupta family to land their wedding guests at Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2013.

In his testimony before the state capture inquiry on Tuesday, Koloane admitted that he abused the power of his office when he put pressure on senior officials to clear the landing at the restricted facility.

The second leg of his testimony, on Tuesday, differed greatly from his first appearance the day before, when he said he merely asked for officials to expedite the Indian High Commission's (IHC) application to land at Waterkloof.

Koloane was asked to respond to allegations set out in three charges penned by a disciplinary committee he faced at the department of international relations and cooperation a month after the landing in April 2013. At the time, he pled guilty to charges that he abused diplomatic channels to facilitate the landing, misrepresented facts to senior officials at the department of defence, and compromised normal processes and procedures.

"I pleaded guilty to administrative negligence and also the inappropriate influencing of officials; but I did not plead guilty to some the things - like the request for the flight clearance was telephonically approved by myself," he said.

"I pleaded administrative negligence because the impression that had been created was that there had not been any application and I was informed by the IHC that he had applied, and since I indicated yesterday, before that they had actually followed the similar process when they were hosting their head of state, I was of the assumption that all was done properly and by the book. I did agree that I erred in that."

In recorded conversations between Koloane and senior defence officials, including command centre flight post officer Thabo Ntshisi, Koloane is heard saying that then transport minister Ben Martins and minister of defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula were aware of the flight.

In those calls, reference is also made to "Number One", understood to be former president Jacob Zuma, whose instructions Koloane said he was acting on.

"I indicated that at no stage did the minister of transport, defence or the president in any way communicate with me either by themselves or through anyone in their offices… I abused the power of my office by calling officials who are processing and exerted pressure on them. But at no stage did I have control of diplomatic channels," Koloane said.

"I used my office to follow up on why the flight clearance was not processed. I do accept that it’s a clear abuse of my portfolio as the chief of protocol to have put pressure on the officials, in this case Ntshisi, to expedite the processing of the flight clearance, particularly given that I had not myself verified even with him whether all the administrative requirements had been met."

He admitted to using the names of the ministers and Zuma in pressuring defence employees to clear the flight - and maintains they had no knowledge of the flight and that he was not acting on their instructions.

"I agree that it was wrong of me to use their names... it potentially can taint the reputation and the image of the three that you have just mentioned," he said.

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