State considers buying a jet for jet-setter minister

2011-12-14 14:12

Government is considering buying a jet for International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane after spending millions of rands on chartered and commercial flights, her spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, has said.

Monyela was responding to questions based on a parliamentary reply, according to which Nkoana-Mashabane had spent R10.3 million on chartered flights and almost R3 million on commercial flights since April last year.

Since Nkoana-Mashabane was appointed in May 2009, she has taken 38 overseas trips, costing R21 002 383 in flights for her, her support staff and senior officials.

“In most countries, foreign affairs ministers have their own planes – like the president and deputy president – because of the nature of their work. They crisscross the globe to visit counterparts and sign bilateral agreements, but when they don’t have a dedicated plane, like in this instance, it becomes difficult,” said Monyela.

Asked whether government would purchase a new jet for her, Monyela said: “That’s one of the options being considered, precisely because she must be a well-travelled executive in the country and a dedicated plane would fulfil those ambitions.”

Last month the Department of Defence revealed that it was considering buying two private jets for President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, following numerous glitches with Motlanthe’s overseas travels.

But Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu seemed to have backtracked on these plans when she told City Press two weeks ago that she was considering using SAA to fly both Zuma and Motlanthe.

Monyela said the 14 chartered flights were used for visits to countries on the African continent where travelling was more difficult.

He said most African countries did not have direct flights from South Africa and Nkoana-Mashabane had been forced to travel to three countries before arriving at her destination.

“In fact, if you don’t charter, you will end up taking up to four days to travel, connecting to European cities like London and Paris before coming back to the continent,” said Monyela, insisting that this would be taxing on the minister and her entourage.

According to the parliamentary reply, the chartered flights cost R10 393 299. A total of 26 international commercial flights on business class, 14 first-class trips and three economy-class trips cost R2 394 433 between April 2010 to June this year.

In total, she spent approximately R12.9 million on flights, including 20 domestic flights to the tune of R138 135.

Nkoana-Mashabane’s deputy, Marius Fransman, spent R984 795 in the same period on 23 international flights, including eight first-class and 14 business-class flights. One was an economy flight.

Her other deputy, Ebrahim Ebrahim, spent R138 135 on 20 domestic business class flights and R110 492 on two international business class flights.

DA spokesperson for international relations, Kenneth Mubu, slated Nkoana-Mashabane and her deputies’ spending on flights.

“This is the same minister who, in September this year, chartered a flight from Oslo apparently to avoid having her luggage scanned, as required by international law.

“But now a different picture is emerging. The chartered flight from Oslo was not a one-off. Expensive chartered flights are clearly her preferred mode of travel,” said Mubu.

He said the DA would write to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to probe the cost of the flights.

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