Only a week since the ANC national executive committee (NEC) made sweeping commitments to fast track efforts of rooting out corruption and the ruling party might already find itself being investigated by the Public Protector for abusing taxpayer funds.
This comes after some of the party’s NEC members were accused of abusing state resources for using a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Air Force jet for a bilateral engagement with their Zanu-PF counterparts in Zimbabwe.
The delegation was made up of senior ANC members, some of whom are also NEC members, and were tasked with engaging Zimbabwe’s governing party on the unrest that has gripped the neighbouring country.
Although the trip was not a government sanctioned engagement, the ANC officials we seen arriving in Harare in a SANDF jet.
The delegation was made up of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, party chairperson Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu and Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, as well as five members of the ANC NEC who were scheduled to meet with Zanu-PF’s central committee.
As a result, AfriForum has called on Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to investigate the matter.
The organisation’s head of the anti-corruption unit, Monique Taute, launched an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of Air Force assets by the high-level members of the ANC and also indicated that the organisation would “take legal steps if it came to light that state assets were used by the ANC unlawfully”.
She added that: “AfriForum’s legal representatives also wrote to Minister of International Relations and Cooperative Government Naledi Pandor, as well as to Mapisa-Nqakula, requesting them to explain whether the Air Force plane had been used lawfully. The civil rights organisation also submitted a complaint to the Public Protector”.
Public Protector’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe and the department of international relations were not available to comment on whether they had received the letters seen by City Press.
Taute said section 80(3) of the Defence Act 42 of 2002 determines that defence force assets may only be used under exceptional circumstances other than protection of the country.
“These circumstances must adhere to certain requirements. First, the use thereof must be in the public’s interest. Second, the minister of defence must approve the use of the assets in consultation with the minister of finance,” she said.
Ministry of defence spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini told City Press’ sister publication News24 that the ANC meeting coincided with the official work of Mapisa-Nqakula.
“The meeting of the ANC in Zimbabwe coincided with the meeting of the minister of defence and military veterans, who was travelling to Zimbabwe to meet her counterpart in preparation for a SADC Troika meeting and the UN reconfiguration of the Force Intervention, which comprises troops from the SADC region,” he said.
The DA has also called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to clarify why an ANC-led delegation was able to fly to Zimbabwe, to meet with Zanu-PF party officials, using a SANDF air force jet.
DA shadow defence and military veterans minister, Kobus Marais, said not only does it call on Ramaphosa to clarify what it calls “brazen corruption” by the ANC, but also calls on the ANC to immediately pay back the money the SANDF spent on transporting the party delegation to Zimbabwe.
He added that a line needed to be drawn “when it comes to the ANC’s relentless gross abuse of government resources”.
“The State cannot continue to be milked dry in pursuit of the ANC’s political ends,” said Marias.
At the meeting, it was agreed that there was no “crisis” plaguing Zimbabwe, but that the country faced “challenges”.
In an interview with the SABC, Magashule, who led the delegation, denied it amounted to an abuse of power.