The cost of VIP flights for President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe have been made “confidential for security reasons” by the defence ministry in a move the opposition says is aimed at protecting them from public outrage over the costs of such flights.
David Maynier, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans said that defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has effectively classified all information relating to the costs of VIP flights for holidays undertaken by the President and his Deputy.
Replying to a parliamentary question probing the total amount spent on VIP flights for presidential holidays, the minister said that, “The air transport requests for the President do not indicate the purpose of the trip/flight as all VVIP movements are confidential for security reasons.” She added that, “The air transport requests for the Deputy President do not indicate the purpose of the trip/flight as all VVIP movements are confidential for security reasons”.
“However, the evidence suggests that this is simply not true and that the military command has misinformed the Minister about how the VVIP system really works,” Maynier said. “The air transport request for Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s recent end-of-year holiday in the Seychelles clearly indicated that purpose of the trip was a “vacation”.
Maynier said that in a letter, dated 01 November 2012, an official in the Office of the Presidency wrote to the South African Air Force, requesting assistance with VIP flights as follows: “We hereby wish to inform you that the Deputy President will be travelling to Seychelles for his vacation from 23rd December 2012 to 04 January 2013.”
In the past, information on the cost of VIP flights for presidential holidays has been disclosed. Previous replies to parliamentary questions revealed that a total of R1.62 million was spent on nine Falcon 900 flights and twenty seven Oryx helicopter flights for President Jacob Zuma’s weekend holiday in Bazaruto, Mozambique; and a total of R1.02 million was spent on two Falcon 900 flights for Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s end-of-year holiday in the Seychelles.
“We must be the only constitutional democracy in the world where the costs of VIP flights, and the guidelines regulating the use of VIP flights, by a serving president are classified,” Maynier said. “I will therefore be submitting follow-up parliamentary questions probing what legal authority the Minister has used to classify information about VIP flights for President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.”