State denies cover-up of Zuma’s flight schedule

2010-10-05 12:59

Government has side-stepped opposition objections to President Jacob Zuma’s flight details being kept secret, saying classified information was overseen by Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence.

Defence ministry spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier had preferred public grandstanding to approaching the relevant body to obtain the information for oversight purposes.

“It is in this committee that any sensitive and classified information from the South African National Defence Force must be tabled.

“However, the MP ignored this rule because his main interest is not receiving the information for oversight purposes, but for media grandstanding.”

Maynier on Monday objected to defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s decision to classify details of Zuma’s flights.

In written reply to a parliamentary question on Monday, Sisulu said Zuma undertook 27 international and 133 domestic flights from May 9 last year to date.

Maynier had asked Sisulu for details of each flight, including the dates, departure and arrival points, and the costs involved.

Sisulu declined to answer, saying the “information required is classified and may not be made public”.

She advised him to put this request to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence and Military Veterans.

In a statement later, Maynier said this information had been made public in the past.

Sisulu’s reply raised questions about why she was “now covering up details about flights” undertaken by Zuma.

“The fact is that the minister’s refusal to provide full information on flights undertaken by President Jacob Zuma is part of a trend of defence department resistance to being properly accountable to Parliament.

“The real question is what is the minister trying to cover up. Is she trying to cover up details of the routing of the aircraft, the names of the passengers or the exorbitant costs of operating the aircraft?” Maynier asked.

The question comes amid intense debate about the Protection of Information Bill, which critics say will give the state near unchecked power to classify information.

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