Motlanthe defends holiday costs

Cape Town - Paying with public money for transport and security on his Christmas break in the Seychelles was in line with government policy, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Wednesday.

Responding to a question in the National Assembly, he confirmed he had not performed any official duties between 23 December and 4 January, and had in fact been on vacation at the Indian Ocean archipelago at the time.

The question was posed by Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier, who last month said it was "simply wrong for Deputy President Motlanthe to have used public funds to pay for part of his vacation in the Seychelles, when so many people in our country are living in poverty".

Maynier said in a statement at the time that a Falcon 900 aircraft, operated by the SA Air Force’s VIP squadron, was used to transport Motlanthe - together with a number of passengers - from Waterkloof airforce base to Mahe Island International Airport on 23 December.

Further, a Cessna Caravan aircraft, chartered by South Africa's defence department, was used on the same day to take Motlanthe, and a number of passengers, from Mahe airport to Desroches Island (Seychelles).

"Deputy President Motlanthe, together with a number of passengers, stayed at Desroches Island Resort, which is advertised as one of 'Forbes Top Ten Remote Destinations in the World'."

The same aircraft had then been used, on 4 January, to return Motlanthe to South Africa.

While it was known that the cost of chartering the Cessna Caravan was R83 000, the cost of operating the Falcon 900 was unknown.

"However, the total cost of operating the Falcon 900 and chartering the Cessna Caravan could have been as much as R1m," Maynier said.

Motlanthe said he wished to "relieve" Maynier of his anxiety regarding the holiday.

In terms of government policy, transport for the deputy president, whether for official or private purposes, was the responsibility of the state.

"The state also has a duty to provide security for the deputy president at all times, whether he is engaged in official duties, or while he is on leave."

This policy had been re-affirmed by Cabinet on 20 March 2007.

The SA Police Service was responsible for security involving ground transport, while the SA National Defence Force was responsible for air transport.

"The deputy president has no role whatsoever in the planning and carrying out of operations concerning his own transport and security.

"These matters, including deployment of personnel and equipment, as well as related costs, are managed by the competent state organs," Motlanthe said.

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