The issuing of an apology as well as reimbursing the SA Air Force (SAAF) for the apparent unauthorised use of a 21 Squadron bizjet by the ruling party is not enough, civil society and political parties maintain.
In the wake of a very public backlash over a high-level ANC (African National Congress) delegation visit to South Africa’s northern neighbour last week, the organisation’s secretary-general Ace Magashule said in a statement “we travelled in an unusual manner and profusely humble ourselves where we went wrong during lockdown and will reimburse government for costs incurred”.
That the ruling party admits willingness to pay is seen as an admission of guilt by both the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+). The opposition parties condemned the flight saying, among others it was an abuse of State assets and a flaunting of the national state of disaster lockdown regulations.
The DA joined civil society organisation OUTA (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse) calling for the dismissal of Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. She apparently offered the party delegation a lift aboard 21 Squadron’s Falcon 900 (ZS-NAN) as she was flying to Zimbabwe for talks on the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) deployed in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
When news of the flight to Harare from AFB Waterkloof and back found its way into the public domain, President Cyril Ramaphosa instructed his defence minister to report on it and aspects including authorisation and passengers within a brief 48 hours. The report was reportedly delivered to the Commander-in-Chief’s office but there was, at the time of publishing, no indication of whether it would be made public or if Ramaphosa was going to comment on it.
“In view of the ANC’s admission of shamelessly abusing an air force jet to travel to Zimbabwe to meet their Zanu-PF counterparts, Ramaphosa has no other option but to fire Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula,” DA shadow minister of the portfolio Kobus Marais said.
“It is patently clear Mapisa-Nqakula wilfully allowed the ANC delegation to abuse State resources for her party’s political ends. This was a gross violation of her oath of office, a dereliction of duty and a complete disregard for ethical standards. She simply must go.”
OUTA chief executive Wayne Duvenage is also of the opinion Ramaphosa should dismiss his long-serving defence minister. He points out the Zimbabwe flight was not the first time Mapisa-Nqakula “gave lifts” on SAAF aircraft.
FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald points out the ANC’s conduct (in volunteering to pay flight costs) “makes it clear the ruling party was aware of the planned trip beforehand but it still took a chance to see if it could get away with it”.
He will request, among others, a fully detailed and itemised account of the flight to determine whether all related costs will indeed be paid back. As a further back-up Parliamentary questions have been submitted for Mapisa-Nqakula to answer.
The DA, also on the hunt for detailed information about payment, wants a panel of aviation experts to determine the full cost of the ANC’s trip to Zimbabwe, including wear and tear on the aircraft and associated costs. “This information must be submitted to the Auditor-General for full interrogation against departmental expenditure on the ANC flight,” Marais said adding “Given the ANC’s track record of thievery the DA will not leave any stone unturned”.