OUTA calls for Mapisa-Nqakula’s dismissal over Harare flight

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Another voice has joined the chorus calling for President Cyril Ramaphosa to act over the now infamous flight of SA Air Force (SAAF) Falcon 900 (ZS-NAN) to and from Harare last week.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s report on the flight and the passenger manifest was delivered to the Presidency within the 48 hour time limit set by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who wanted information about the circumstances of the flight following public backlash after it emerged a military asset was used to carry ANC party members. At the time of publication there was no indication from either the Presidency or Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) whether it would be made public.

In addition to political parties and a military trade union, the cross-border flight by the SAAF VIP transport 21 Squadron based at Air Force Base Waterkloof – has raised hackles at OUTA (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse).

Its chief executive Wayne Duvenage makes a telling point saying “if President Ramaphosa wants citizens to take him seriously on matters related to abuse of state resources, stern corrective action and meaningful accountability measures are required when it comes to errant ministers”.

The “errant minister” in this instance is Mapisa-Nqakula, who Duvenage maintains “had no right to set a precedent to allow political party members to ‘hitch a ride’ on a SAAF jet”.

He adds Mapisa-Nqakula has “a history of giving lifts” on SAAF aircraft.

“In 2016 it was revealed she was allegedly involved in bringing her late son’s girlfriend into South Africa on a SAAF aircraft in 2014. To this day – despite the suspension of the Minister’s sister Nosithembele Mapisa (who apparently helped arrange a fake passport for the young Burundian woman, Michelle Wedge), it is unclear if any action was taken against Minister Mapisa-Nqakula over her involvement in this matter. She denies any wrongdoing,” Duvenage said.

“There is a clear line between party and state, with no room for excuses when it comes to political parties making use of state resources. South Africans have the right to know why ANC members were allowed to use a SAAF jet to meet with ZANU PF – or anyone else for that matter – in Zimbabwe.”

OUTA wants Mapisa-Nqakula to explain whether the Zimbabwe trip was an official state visit or “merely an ANC trip disguised as a state visit”. If it was a state visit, OUTA wants to know what the actual purpose or nature of the engagement was. If indeed the necessity for this meeting is being questioned, or if it was one that could have been conducted via electronic platforms (as the President and others recently have done during an SADC meeting), it would appear the minister is out of line when it comes to spending of state resources – even more so in light of the current shortage of state funds.

Duvenage said it should not be difficult to obtain answers and OUTA trusts governing officials will not beat around the bush or obfuscate their responsibility on an issue that ought to be clear.

“The indecisiveness as to who was responsible to obtain the necessary approvals and clearance is precisely what happens when the lines between party and state are blurred, just as we witnessed with the Gupta wedding jet landing at AFB Waterkloof in 2013.”

He, along with Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais, wants Mapisa-Nqakula’s report on the Harare flight as well as the findings of an investigation into the trip by the Department of Home Affairs, made public.

“If indeed government wants to prove they mean business when it comes to good, ethical governance, OUTA would like to see the President take action at the highest level. We would go so far as to say Minister Mapisa-Nqakula should be dismissed for her brazen and habitual conduct of showing little regard for the laws of this country and the use of taxpayers’ funds,” Duvenage said.