Two defence force officers cleared of wrongdoing in the Gupta jet landing saga were used to deflect attention from President Jacob Zuma, Corruption Watch said on Wednesday. The withdrawal of the charges “confirms that they were chosen as scapegoats”, executive director David Lewis said in a statement.
“The charges were designed to deflect attention from President Zuma’s role in securing the use of the air force base for his friends, the Gupta family.”
On Tuesday, all charges against Lt-Col Stefan van Zyl and Lt-Col Christine Anderson were withdrawn.
They were accused of being involved in the landing of a private jet, chartered by the wealthy Gupta family, at the Waterkloof Air Force base in Tshwane on April 30, 2013. It was carrying about 200 guests attending the wedding of a daughter of the Guptas at Sun City. Lewis said the incident showed a complete lack of government accountability.
“We congratulate the officers for standing their ground in this matter, and are contemptuous of the former head of international relations state protocol, Bruce Koloane, for his role in hiding the truth, in exchange for a plum ambassadorship in the Netherlands.”
Koloane was chief of state protocol at the time. Last year a report on the landing was released by the justice, crime prevention, and security cluster of ministries. It found that collusion by officials resulted in irregular clearance for the plane to land.
Clearance procedures were followed, but were based on “false pretences, as a result of the manipulation of the process”.
Anderson, Van Zyl, and Warrant Officer Thabo Ntshisi were initially informed they would face charges of corruption, fraud, and conspiracy.
Anderson was suspended and the other two put on forced leave. Ntshisi indicated he would testify against the two.
The defence force withdrew the charges after lawyers for Anderson and Van Zyl gave it an ultimatum to charge the two. Beeld reported on Wednesday that Anderson would bring a civil claim against the defence force for defamation of character after then Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe publicly accused her and Van Zyl of colluding in wrongdoing. SAPA