The R100 000 plus apparently spent by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Solly Shoke, and two other officers flying first class to attend an international defence exhibition in Malaysia could have kept a soldier deployed for more than six months.
Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister, David Maynier said it had “come to his attention” that the country’s top soldier and two others attended the Defence Services Asia (DSA) 2014 exhibition and conference in Malaysia from April 12 to 18.
“Shoke apparently insisted not only on travelling on Emirates, but also first class. For some reason he was apparently only able to travel first class on Emirates from Kuala Lumpur via Dubai to Johannesburg on April 18.
“Emirates provides an ultra-luxury first class service with private suites,” Maynier said, adding the flight was “apparently approved” by the Secretary for Defence, Dr Sam Gulube.
“Shoke’s decision to travel first-class on Emirates was a monumental failure of judgment: it suggests he is more concerned with status than setting an example to the Defence Force.
“Moreover, Shoke’s decision to travel first class on Emirates was a direct contravention of National Treasury Instruction 01 of 2013/2014: Cost Containment Measures, which clearly prohibits first class travel.
“In the end, it’s simply wrong for the Chief of the Defence Force to spend a fortune on first class flights when ordinary soldiers, serving on the frontline, do not have the equipment they require to properly execute their mission, because of budget constraints in the Defence Force.”
Sandu (SA National Defence Union) general secretary, Pikkie Greeff, told Afrikaans daily Beeld in reaction to the apparent overspend on an international flight the SANDF was experiencing “a dire shortage” of equipment, including basics such as uniforms.
“The money spent on this international flight could have seen one soldier properly deployed and sustained for six months,” he said.
The SANDF’s Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said Shoke flew Emirates but denied he had been a first class passenger.
Maynier has built up something of a reputation as a watcher and counter of the hours spent airborne by defence ministers and was particularly critical of the current Minister’s predecessor.
The skirmishes between Lindiwe Sisulu and himself including her calling him “a flea infested body”, later withdrawn in the National Assembly, and Maynier’s Christmas gift of an inflatable neck pillow as well as her giving him a calculator so that “he can correctly add up” the hours she allegedly spent in chartered luxury jets as well as SA Air Force VIP aircraft from 21 Squadron.