Discrepancies in Ministerial reports on Harare flight

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A thorough study of reports by the defence and military veterans minister on her Harare flight with an ANC delegation “hitching a ride” as it were, has brought to light “discrepancies and other interesting points”.

These will, according to Kobus Marais, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s portfolio, make for “an interesting time” later this month when she appears at a Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) meeting in Pretoria.

He notes: “President Cyril Ramaphosa only gave Mapisa-Nqakula permission to travel to Zimbabwe when she was already back in South Africa. He approved her request on 10 September, a day after the delegation returned. This means Mapisa-Nqakula and her entourage left the country illegally without approval from the President and in violation of the Executive Ethics Code governing executive travel. The DA will submit this information as supplementary evidence in our complaint against the Minister with Parliament’s Ethics Committee”.

Other “irregularities” Marais maintains are in her two reports and supporting documentation concern when Mapisa-Nqakula “sought Presidential approval” for the Zimbabwe visit and that she “abandoned her post”.

Presidential approval was requested the day before the flight was due to take off from Air Force Base Waterkloof. This contravenes the Ministerial Handbook which requires approval two weeks prior to foreign visits.

In a statement on Thursday, the Presidency said Ramaphosa received a written request for travel from Mapisa-Nqakula, dated 7 September. The Minister requested permission to travel to Zimbabwe from 8 to 10 September tfor a bilateral meeting with her Zimbabwean counterpart, the Minister of Defence and War Veterans, Oppah Chamu Muchinguri-Kashiri.

“As the President was not in Gauteng at the time the Minister submitted her request; he gave verbal approval for travel on 8 September and signed the relevant documentation on his return to Gauteng. On 10 September the Presidency gave the Minister written confirmation the President approved her travel,” said the Presidency.

On “abandoning her post”, Marais points out Mapisa-Nqakula designated Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as acting in her place “after the fact”. The dates in Mapisa-Nqakula’s reports bear this out.

He is of the opinion Ramaphosa must also be held accountable for the Harare flight along with his defence and military veterans minister.

“He is complicit in her actions,” Marais said.

The ANC has, according to some reports, paid the R105 500 it owes the SA Air Force (SAAF) for unauthorised use of the 21 Squadron Falcon 900. At the time of publishing no confirmation had been made by either the Ministry of Defence or the Department of Defence (DoD). In addition to an official Presidential reprimand and three months loss of salary, Mapisa-Nqakula was instructed by Ramaphosa to ensure the ruling party “settled its account”.

Reviewing the Department of Defence invoice for the ANC,  African Defence Review director Darren Olivier said: “I’m embarrassed to admit I missed something big in the Minister of Defence’s report: The invoice calculation is wrong as the ANC should be charged R126 654, not R105 545. The cost of the flight was R21 109 per person, but the invoice charges the ANC for five people, not six.”

According to the report, six ANC members travelled on the flight, namely “[Lindiwe] Zulu, [Nomvula] Mokonyane, [Enoch] Godongwana, [Ace] Magashule, [Dakota] Legoete and [Tony] Yengeni”. The discrepancy in the invoice may be because Zulu is minister of Social Development and may have been counted as a member of government even though she did not receive authorisation to fly.



“There may also be errors in the minister’s draft affidavit regarding timing,” Olivier adds. “She says they flew from Waterkloof to Harare between 18h25 & 19h35, or 1h10m, which matches the Falcon 900’s performance. The flight back though, from 21h45 to 22h30, is a scarcely credible 45 minutes.”