NATASHA MARRIAN: A reluctant Mapisa-Nqakula bills ANC hitchhikers for Zim flight
Opposition parties in parliament are preparing to grill the defence minister about the trip, and complaints have been lodged with the public protector
Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s initial report to President Cyril Ramaphosa on ferrying an ANC delegation to Zimbabwe at the expense of the taxpayer, during a national lockdown, was hardly remorseful.
In fact, it was a page-and-a-half, three-point note in which the minister justifies taking along the six-member ANC delegation. She says Ramaphosa had directed that the ANC send a national executive committee delegation to Zimbabwe and that she “deemed it fit” to take along the party delegation due to Covid-19 restrictions on air travel and land borders.
So vague was her initial report that Ramaphosa had asked for supplementary information.
This was revealed in both the initial and supplementary reports released by the presidency on Wednesday.
The supplementary report shows that the ANC has been billed R105, 545.46 by the defence department.
The ANC released a statement upon its return and after a meeting of its national officials, in which it admitted that it was wrong to hitch a ride on an SA Air Force (SAAF) flight and said it would reimburse the state for the costs for its delegation.
Mapisa-Nqakula also concedes in the second report that “in hindsight”, it would have been “prudent” to inform Ramaphosa’s office that she would be ferrying the ANC delegation, which she formed part of to meet their Zimbabwean counterparts.
However, she then goes on to say that according to the guide for members of the executive, approved by Ramaphosa last November, air transport by the SAAF may not be provided to political parties – unless the political party business coincides with official engagements.
She adds that she was not aware of any prohibitions on ferrying additional passengers on the same aircraft or of any permission that had to be obtained to do so, saying it was a “regular occurrence” for SAAF planes to transport “business persons or the like if they are all travelling in the same direction as the flight being used for official government business”.
Following the submission of the reports, Ramaphosa reprimanded Mapisa-Nqakula for giving the ANC delegation a “lift” to Harare while she was on an official visit. The delegation travelled at the state’s expense, during a national lockdown in which international travel was barred.
Ramaphosa announced on Saturday that he had reprimanded her and docked her salary for three months – with the proceeds set to go to the Solidarity Fund.
The presidency said in a statement on Wednesday that Ramaphosa had directed that the initial and supplementary reports provided to him be released publicly in the interest of transparency. Based on the reports, the president had concluded that it had been an “error of judgment” on the minister’s part to use the SAAF plane to ferry a party delegation to Zimbabwe.
The release of the reports comes as opposition parties in parliament prepare to grill the minister about the trip.
The African Transformation Movement and the Freedom Front Plus, as well as lobby group AfriForum, have also lodged complaints with the public protector.
Mapisa-Nqakula included in her supplementary report to Ramaphosa her affidavit to the public protector in which she responds to the complaints.
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