A presidential slap on the wrist with extra punishment is the outcome of the urgent report on the recent ZS-NAN flight carrying an unauthorised delegation of senior ruling party officials to Zimbabwe for Cyril Ramaphosa’s minister of defence and military veterans.
The sanction – an official Presidential reprimand – has another component in “a three month salary sacrifice” for Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The early September flight to South Africa’s troubled northern neighbour elicited vocal public response when it became known the ANC delegation aboard the 21 Squadron Falcon 900 (ZS-NAN) were given “a lift” by Mapisa-Nqakula. She was reportedly flying to Harare for Southern African Development Community (SADC) related talks with her Zimbabwean colleague.
Mapisa-Nqakula is also directed by Ramaphosa “to make sure the ANC reimburses the State for the costs of the flight” as per a Presidency statement issued at 22h10 on Saturday. She is to report to him – presumably with the amount paid – once payment is received from the ANC.
Ramaphosa’s decision follows his consideration of an initial report by Mapisa-Nqakula and “a supplementary report he directed the Minister to provide” on the 8 September flight by the SA Air Force (SAAF) VIP squadron aircraft. Neither of the reports have been publicly released.
Ramaphosa’s late night weekend statement on the issue notes his defence and military veterans minister was on an official trip with Presidential permission.
“It was an error of judgment to use a SAAF aircraft to convey a political party delegation,” according to the statement which adds Mapisa-Nqakula did not act in the best interest of good governance.
“The sanction imposed on the Minister demonstrates the seriousness with which the President views the Minister’s error of judgement, given her high position in government,” is the wrap to the Presidency statement which does not satisfy two who spoke out about the “flying and free taxi service” offered by Mapisa-Nqakula.
“An attempt to pacify the public” and “simply not good enough” are some of the phrases used, pointing out Ramaphosa did not take the ministerial judgement error seriously. Both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Freedom Front Plus (FF+) maintain Mapisa-Nqakula should have been dismissed – immediately.
“The reprimand does not illustrate how serious Ramaphosa is about his defence minister’s dereliction of duty. It illustrates how weak he is in holding members of his party and his Executive to account,” Kobus Marais, DA shadow defence and military veterans minister said.
“The President effectively downplayed the abuse of State resources stating it was an ‘error of judgement’ on the part of Minister Mapisa-Nqakula.
“President Ramaphosa himself admitted the Minister ‘did not act in the best interest of good governance’; she ‘failed to adhere to legal prescripts warranting care in the use of State resources’ and she ‘acted in a way inconsistent with her position’.
“These are damning findings and she only receives a slap on the wrist,” is Marais’ summary of the Presidential pronouncement.
FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald is of the opinion the punishment does not fit the crime.
“Ramaphosa should have dismissed Minister Mapisa-Nqakula immediately. That was the correct course of action,” he said, adding that “a penalty, however inadequate” was imposed, was an admission of unacceptable conduct.
Groenewald’s party filed a complaint with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office requesting further and full investigation of the flight.
“We await her decision with bated breath,” Groenewald said, adding if Mkhwebane recommended the defence minister’s dismissal, Ramaphosa will be “obliged” to execute it.