Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was, along with other Cabinet ministers from the justice, peace and security clusters, in the firing line for the final parliamentary question and answer session of the year.
Unsurprisingly, her September flight to Harare on a SA Air Force (SAAF) bizjet was a priority notwithstanding her boss, President Cyril Ramaphosa, having declared “sufficient sanction” with her docked three month’s pay and having to report settlement of the bill for the ruling party’s portion of flight costs to the Commander-in-Chief.
She told the question and answer session the ANC made payment the same day Ramaphosa told the nation she would forfeit three month’s salary as “punishment” for “allowing” senior ANC representatives to “hitch a ride” – the phrase used by Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian Kobus Marais whose responsibility in the party’s shadow cabinet is defence and military veterans – on the 21 Squadron Falcon 900 (ZS-NAN).
Mapisa-Nqakula told the question and answer session she flew to the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, to discuss matters of national security.
“It should not be that I jumped into an aircraft, crossed the river and went to Zimbabwe on a tour,” she said.
She is “happy” the Public Protector is investigating the flight following a submission to Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office by Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald.
A Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request lodged by Marais and responded to in an affidavit by Secretary for Defence, Gladys Kudjoe, confirmed Mapisa-Nqakula met her Zimbabwean counterpart Opah Muchinguri-Kashiri on 9 September but no minutes of the meeting “exist”.
The defence and military veterans minister took a swipe at those questioning her use of a State asset (the French bizjet) to fly ANC cadres. Mapisa-Nqakula told the question and answer session she did the same for opposition parliamentarians in 2019 when they used a SAAF aircraft for an oversight visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
A rating of Cabinet ministers published by digital news site News24, gives Mapisa-Nqakula a lowly three out of 10. She shares this rating with Lindiwe Sisulu, a former holder of her Cabinet post and currently Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation; Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. At the other end of the scale the news site’s highest rating – eight out of 10 – is shared by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Barbara Creecy, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. Ramaphosa was rated a seven.