The alleged abuse of a State asset – in this instance an SA Air Force (SAAF) operated bizjet – by the ruling ANC is under scrutiny from two sides with indications the Public Protector will be called in to investigate.
Both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) issued strongly worded statements in the wake of it publicly coming to light that an ANC delegation used 21 Squadron’s Falcon 900 (ZS-NAN) as transport to and from the Zimbabwean capital Harare this week. The party delegation was apparently told it could form part of the passenger manifest aboard the ageing bizjet by Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
She, according to Johannesburg digital daily TimesLIVE, quoting a Department of Defence (DoD) head of communications statement, was “travelling to Zimbabwe to meet her counterpart in preparation for a SADC (Southern African Development Community) Troika meeting on UN reconfiguration of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB, a component of MONUSCO), which comprises troops from the SADC region”.
According to the publication, the statement – not received by this publication which is on both the DoD and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) media distribution lists – attributed to Siphiwe Dlamini said: “The ANC delegation was going to deal with issues that are having a direct impact on South Africa. This is not a common occurrence and has never happened before (Sic)”.
Democratic Alliance shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais is understanding of Mapisa-Nqakula’s need to travel on national and regional defence issues – in this case the future composition of the FIB. What he cannot come to grips with is why Zimbabwe has become involved when Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania are the countries providing soldiers and other military personnel to staff the only UN peacekeeping force worldwide to be given an offensive mandate in executing its primary function of protecting civilians in strife-torn DR Congo. He also points out Zimbabwe no longer chairs the regional body with this duty assumed by Mozambique’s president Filipe Nyusi last month.
Comparing the use of the aircraft to a person calling an Uber ride, Marais said “the Minister’s entourage and not her” is the problem. He wants the usually vocal Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to clarify the flight authorisation as all international passenger flights are prohibited, except those authorised by the Minister of Transport under level two of the national state of disaster regulations.
FFF+ leader Pieter Groenewald maintains lockdown regulations were violated when the ANC delegation used the military aircraft with a secondary wrong in the misuse of taxpayer money to pay from the AFB Waterkloof Harare round trip.
“That a military aircraft was used without authorisation to fly ANC members to Zimbabwe for party political matters is nothing but blatant misuse of tax money and corruption. The ANC must repay the costs,” he said, adding a formal complaint will be lodged with the office of Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Groenewald will also use the National Assembly as a platform to ask questions of “the relevant ministers” (Mbalula and Mapisa-Nqakula).
Darren Olivier, defence expert and African Defence Review (ADR) director, said, “This needs to be explored further. The SAAF aircraft used is a state-owned VIP jet meant only for official state business. That the Minister of Defence was part of the trip is irrelevant if she was there representing the ANC and not government.”