DA says Sisulu trying to obscure cost of Zuma’s shadow planes


South Africa’s Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, is trying to cover up the true extent, and cost, of President Jacob Zuma’s use of so-called shadow aircraft, the Democratic Alliance (DA) says.

David Maynier, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, said that on February 29 he asked Sisulu to provide details of each occasion on which Zuma had used aircraft to shadow his executive jet, as well as details of the associated costs in each case.

Fifteen days after the reply was due, Maynier received a response, but in it Sisulu failed to disclose any of the information requested. “Instead, she simply provided the statement her department issued on 20 February regarding shadow planes as a proxy answer. This is not good enough,” Maynier said.

Sisulu’s response leaves several important questions unanswered, according to the DA, notably the total cost of operating the President’s two shadow aircraft for his trip to the United States and if the President had used any shadow aircraft before and the costs thereof.
“I believe Minister Sisulu has deliberately dodged answering these difficult questions because she fears that the answers would be embarrassing to her, to her Department, and to the President,” Maynier stated. “I will take this matter up with the Speaker of the House, Max Sisulu, in order to get answers.”

Maynier said that President Zuma’s trip to New York may have cost more than R10 million, as it used a South African Airways Airbus A340 and a Bombardier Global Express XRS and required around 35 crewmembers.

Last month it emerged that the Auditor-General will investigate the expenditure on the shadow aircraft. The Office of the Auditor-General said that, “the relevant process will be audited as part of the Supply Chain Management audit, evaluated for compliance with applicable Treasury Regulations and Practice Notes, and reported to Parliament if required”.

Maynier said that Sisulu “has a track record of attempting to hide information by avoiding parliamentary questions or by providing non-replies to questions” and that her “disregard and contempt for parliamentary oversight is unacceptable”.

Some of the questions she has refused to answer concern Zuma’s flights; her international and domestic flights; her international and domestic hotel stays; the status of complaints to the Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF); the purpose and cost of departmental advertising campaigns; and the amounts claimed by the Minister and her deputy for subsistence and travel in the 2010/2011 financial year.