Suspended Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson may have answered the question “who gave the Guptas permission to land at the Waterkloof Air Force Base?” On Thursday, media reports were abuzz with news of excerpts from her affidavit where she says that “Number 1” authorised the landing and by “Number 1”, she further explained, she means none other than South African President Jacob Zuma. He is referred to as “Number 1” in military communication for security reasons.
In April, the Gupta family and their 200 wedding guests received treatment normally reserved for presidents, royalty and dignitaries when they landed at the Waterkloof Air Force Base. The “royal treatment” did not end at the base. When the wedding party was escorted to the wedding venue in Sun City, they felt safe in the knowledge that should any harm come their way, they would have the protection of South Africa’s elite security personnel. They were accompanied by twenty members of the flying squad in 10 powerful squad cars. In case the danger was severe, 40 counter-assault team members and VIP protection officers could be relied on to act swiftly and decisively. They travelled in their own specialised security vehicles.
The Guptas have a close friendship with the president. They also have a business relationship with one of the president’s children. Soon after the scandal broke, the Guptas issued this apology: “The family would like to issue a general apology to all affected, including the South African and Indian governments, the local authorities, the South African public and especially our guests.” However, the Guptas have never specifically named the person who allowed them to land at the Waterkloof Air Force Base though they have always maintained that they did have authorisation. Suspicion landed squarely on the president. Zuma was accused of abusing his position of power to accommodate his friends. The presidency denied any involvement.
South Africans were not impressed and demanded answers. The ANC also felt that the public deserved those answers so, a government investigation was launched. A short while later the president was cleared of any wrongdoing and it was concluded the landing was made possible because of “collusion by officials”. Those officials include Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson and former Chief of State Protocol Bruce Koloane. Anderson was suspended and Koloane was demoted. Anderson will continue to tell her story in the interests of justice and to restore her reputation.
Anderson’s statement reads: “On or about 17 April 2013, Mr Koloane phoned me and he informed me that he had returned from the president and that the president wanted to know ‘if everything is still on track for the flight’.” In another sworn statement, SANDF Warrant Officer Thabo Ntshisi said that Koloane had specifically indicated that there should be no paper trail linking the president to the landing even though the president had allegedly authorised the landing. Ntshisi’s statement also alleges: “He (Koloane) said Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson will confirm it. She said that Number One knew of the flight and that I should allow the flight.”
The presidency quickly distanced itself from these allegations on Thursday. The spokesperson for the presidency, Mac Maharaj denied the media reports. He argued that they were “not based on fact”. Maharaj insisted: “While it would not be appropriate to discuss matters that are being addressed at the tribunal, we wish to state categorically that there is no truth to the allegation.” The Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters were among the first to voice their dissatisfaction.
DA Member of Parliament, Lindiwe Mazibuko is intent on getting answers from the president. According to Independent Online, Mazibuko explained: “The seriousness of these latest revelations not only brings into question the ethical conduct of the president, who is now alleged to have abused public resources and institutions on the basis of personal relationships, but also indicates that he could have been part of a cover-up of significant proportions.” The DA won’t be wasting any time. Mazibuko will draft a request for the establishment of a committee to determine if President Zuma acted accordingly.
The Economic Freedom Fighters spoke of how the government is misleading the public. The EFF statement includes this remark: “These officers now appear to have run the military protocol like we are a banana republic, yet they were on strict instructions from the presidency; from Mr Zuma who intentionally sought to hide the paper trail as his head of state protocol ensured the unlawful landing of the Gupta aircraft on our air base.”
There are many unanswered questions about ‘Nkandlagate’, ‘Guptagate’ and the spy tapes, among other things. These questions come from all corners; the media, opposition political parties and the public. The one man who seems to have all the answers is not eager to give a lot of information at present.