ANC grounds ministers

2014-04-27 15:00

According to a directive by the party’s national executive committee after a meeting earlier this year, all international travel for ministers had to be put on ice so that the party’s secretariat could work out campaign diaries.

City Press has seen an SMS from ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte, which reads: “Have ministers been informed of the no-travel decision by the NEC or should we do this?”

A senior government official said international travel was put on ice for a few weeks, but later it was decided that some essential travel would be allowed.

When asked about the directive, Duarte initially said, “It is normal for government to request ministers not to travel so much and do what is called ‘the handover packages’”.

When pressed about the SMS, Duarte admitted that the NEC “discussed this and asked that ANC ministers be available for the campaign”.

She said: “It is very correct for the ANC to request that ANC ministers be made available for campaigning” because many of the ministers were on the party’s elections list and were going back to government.

Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said that “it is elections time, and given that they are politicians, [ministers] are expected to take part in the campaign”.

But ministers who had to attend to urgent business abroad or travel on official duties were still allowed to leave the country, she said.

She was not clear on where the original directive came from, but said it was enforced by the presidency.

Zuma has to sign off on all overseas travel and has the power to refuse ministers the right to travel.

He himself has cancelled overseas trips, saying he needed to be home to campaign ahead of the May 7 national elections.

Williams said in cases where an official like the director-general could travel overseas instead of the minister, it was recommended that they go instead.

Some ministers, like International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, will still be allowed to travel to represent Zuma abroad.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan recently attended the World Economic Forum, where he represented SA, Williams said, while Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane went to South Sudan, where the ANC is helping to mediate in the crisis.

Many other ministers, however, such as Human Settlements Minister Connie September and even Deputy Minister of International Relations Marius Fransman, had to cancel their travel plans after they were told to stay to campaign.

Fransman is party chairperson for the embattled Western Cape.

Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, who has a support base in Cape Town, earlier this month was barred from attending the World Bank’s spring meeting –?as he has done for many years – because he was among the group of ministers who were called on to assist with the election campaign.

Manuel is, however, expected to travel again today to the Vatican City to meet Pope Francis and attend a canonisation ceremony.

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