The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been billed R105 545.46 by government in the form of the Secretary for Defence to cover costs of a party delegation given “a lift” aboard an SA Air Force (SAAF) bizjet.
This, apart from the actual payment of the amount owing, ends another chapter in a highly public saga around abuse of State resources with Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula taking all the Presidential flack in the form of being docked three months’ salary and having to ensure the ANC settles its bill. Her salary will be paid into the Solidarity Fund, established to support the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Minister, in one of two reports to President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding the flight of Falcon 900 (ZS-NAN) to and from Harare on 8 and 9 September, shows what could be interpreted as remorse. She writes “in hindsight it would have been prudent to inform your office in writing of my intention to ferry ANC members… to meet our Zanu PF counterparts”.
The R105 000 cost for the ANC delegation which included party secretary-general Ace Magashule, was calculated using a flying hour tariff of R62 000, as per the approved SAAF model.
African Defence Review (ADR) director Darren Olivier said the R105 000 plus was more than expected. “Instead of using the marginal cost of each additional passenger, the DoD divided the entire flight cost on a pro rata basis even though the aircraft was going to be used. Clearly, a message is being sent.”
He added publication of Mapisa-Nqakula’s reports and attachments in full was “a surprisingly transparent move from The Presidency. I cannot recall a similar event in recent memory”.
Mapisa-Nqakula, he avers, does not look good in the reports and her draft affidavit to the Public Protector.
“She sees no fault with her actions and makes some questionable claims in defending them. For one, she claims taking ANC members was OK because the SAAF often flies business delegations such as defence industry delegations if ‘travelling in the same direction’. This is misleading, unlikely as this incident does not comply with the Defence Act.
“By her own admission she did not inform President Ramaphosa of her intention to allow ANC members on the SAAF aircraft, yet she clearly attempts to claim the trip was authorised even so. Most damning is her own report which strongly implies the official bilateral meeting was set up purely as cover for the ANC trip rather than a legitimate standalone engagement,” according to Olivier.
He added the repayment was “symbolic, both as an admission of wrongdoing and recognition by the ANC public sentiment has shifted to the point where there is far less willingness to tolerate abuse of state resources”.
Another who sees more questions than answers in the Ministerial reports and affidavits is Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais.
“Her explanation of costs is seemingly selective and an effort to exonerate her – yet again – of wrongdoing. The reports confirm a damning picture of massive abuse of authority and state resources as well as reckless flouting of legislative and protocol compliance,” he said adding “real interrogation” will start now referring to Mapisa-Nqakula’s appearance at a Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) in Pretoria later this month. The meeting takes place ahead of a committee oversight visit to bases and units deployed on the border protection tasking Operation Corona.
The reports on the Minister’s Zimbabwe flight can be accessed at:
– Initial report by Minister of Defence on Zimbabwe flight
– Supplementary Report By Minister of Defence on Zimbabwe flight