Flight details secret to protect Zuma’s safety: defence

2010-10-07 12:00

President Jacob Zuma’s air travel details have been classified because his life could be at risk if foreign intelligence bodies obtained the information, Defence Secretary Mpumi Mpofu said today.

“They reveal pattern, they reveal behaviour, they reveal trends which we think should not be in the public domain,” Mpofu told a media briefing on the department’s 2009/10 yearly report.

The report reveals the number of hours the military spent on transporting VIP figures but gives no further details. The issue has raised considerable debate in the past week, with the Democratic Alliance claiming that keeping Zuma’s flight details under wraps was a symptom of a growing culture of state secrecy.

Mpofu confirmed that the defence department was instructed by South Africa’s security agencies to stop making the information public, as was done in the past.

“The issues relating to the movements, particularly the detail of the movement – how many people, who, where to, doing what – has been raised in the security cluster as a matter in need of review.

“Indications have been given to us not to make the information available until such time that the security agencies have decided whether it is okay or not.”

Like Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had done, Mpofu suggested that DA defence spokesperson David Maynier approach Parliament’s joint standing committee on defence if he wanted to have access to the information for the sake of oversight purposes.

But she insisted that giving it to the public as a whole could prove dangerous.

“We must all understand this: when a member of Parliament requires information there is a parliamentary rule that governs what can be done with that information when it is made available.

“The problem is normally when you make information available through other means the information may end up in the hands of those who should not have access to it... other members of the general public, even internationally.

“They may not have as good intentions as the member of Parliament.”

“So the security agencies apply that test, of the final access... whether it is prudent to make that information available through the normal channel if potentially it can be sitting in the hands of other international security agencies.”

The DA had made submissions to both the presidency and the defence ministry under the Protection of Access to Information Act to be shown the president’s flight details.

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