Public Protector clarifies issues surrounding the investigation involving the landing of the Gupta aircraft at Air Force Base Waterkloof in 2013
On 08 May 2013, Mr. David Maynier, MP of the Democratic Alliance approached the former Public Protector, requesting that she investigates the landing chartered commercial aircraft at Air Force Base Waterkloof on 30 April 2013.
Mr. Maynier was concerned that the investigation which was being conducted by the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) would not sufficiently cover all aspects of what actually happened.
The former Public Protector wrote to Mr. Maynier on 21 August 2013, declining to investigate his complaint on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence justifying such as request.
She informed him that she would instead investigate only the complaint relating to Lt. Col. C Anderson of the South African Air Force’s dissatisfaction with the JCPS Cluster investigation. Lt. Col. C Anderson had complained to the Public Protector on 15 July 2013 about the matter.
In her complaint, Lt. Col. Anderson had taken issue with references in the JCPS Cluster report that implicated her in improper conduct. She alleged that except for questions put to her in writing, she was not involved in the investigation or given an opportunity to respond to the adverse findings made against her.
Accordingly, only two issues were identified for investigation. These were whether the process of the investigation of the JCPS Cluster in regard to Lt. Col. Anderson’s involvement in the incident was improper and whether Lt. Col. Anderson was prejudiced as a result of improper conduct of the JCPS Cluster investigation team.
From the investigation of the complaint, it transpired that Lt. Col. Anderson was indeed afforded the opportunity to respond to written questions put to her regarding the incident. Members of the JCPS investigation team disputed that she was not afforded an opportunity to submit more information and claimed that she failed to avail herself when she was required to do so.
On 03 May 2013, the Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) issued an order by virtue of which a Board of Inquiry was convened in terms of the Defence Act, 2002. The Board of Inquiry had to determine, among other things, whether there was any wrongdoing that gave rise to the incident and the corrective measures, including disciplinary action to the taken against any member of the SANDF. Lt. Col. Anderson participated in the Board of Inquiry, where she was legally represented.
On conclusion of its inquiry, the Board referred the matter to the Director: Military Prosecutions to determine whether, among other things, Lt. Col. Anderson should be prosecuted. The case against Lt. Col. Anderson was formally withdrawn by the Director: Military Prosecutions on 19 January 2015. No further action was taken against her.
By that time, Lt. Col. Anderson, who had been suspended from duty, had already retired having reached the compulsory retirement age of the SANDF in 2014. The file was subsequently closed on the following grounds:
- The impact of the JCPSC investigation and report as far as it related to Lt. Col. Anderson was overtaken by the final outcome of the Board of Inquiry and the withdrawal of the case against her;
- It was already three years since Lt. Col. Anderson retired; and
- Further investigation of her complaint by the Public Protector would have served no purpose.
A confidential closing report to this effect was emailed to Lt. Col. Anderson on 04 September 2017. This information was shared with the Business Day newspaper on 29 May 2019.
Given the newspaper’s story on the matter, published this week, the Public Protector has decided not only to issue this clarification but to also publish copies of both the closing report and the letter which the former Public Protector sent to Mr. Maynier, hoping that it will put the matter to rest.