Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu remained adamant today that she would not release President Jacob Zuma’s flight details, but denied allegations that she was cultivating greater state secrecy.
“It is not correct to put any information about the security of the president, the security of the deputy president and for that matter even the security of the premier of the Western Cape in the public domain, because that undermines the very basis of why we are providing security,” Sisulu told a media briefing in Cape Town.
She said her stance on this issue and several others had wrongly been construed as defiant towards Parliament, and accused the Democratic Alliance (DA) of trying to portray her as such.
She pointed out that the furore over the flight details was sparked by a written parliamentary question from the DA.
The official opposition cried foul when Sisulu gave the number of flights but declined to reveal the dates and destinations, saying this information was made public in the past.
“The argument that came out of that is that in the past Minister (Terror) Lekota has given answers to Parliament that gave the schedule of the president. He may or may not have.
I don’t know .... but even if he did it is wrong and the fact that he did it is not right.
“I know what is wrong and I make sure that it is done properly.
I have enough security background to ensure that we don’t continue on the wrong path.”
Sisulu said her call for the matter to be dealt with in the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, which meets behind closed doors, was not proof of a drive to classify more information but simply a call for proper procedure to be followed.
She said it was not her fault that the standing committee rarely met.
“I have no idea, I just know that I need them to meet.”
After months of tension with Parliament’s portfolio committee on defence, Sisulu for the first time referred to her relationship with speaker Max Sisulu, who is her brother.
She said this did not mean that she enjoyed special privileges but rather that she strove to act correctly for his sake.
“Why would I undermine that man? Of all the things in the world why would I seek to undermine that man?
It is the one institution I would give everything if only to make sure that that man that you have associated me with has the necessary dignity that he deserves.”
Sisulu’s wrangle with the committee revolved around her refusal to release the interim reports of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission.
She said she would only release the final report, and only once it had gone to Cabinet.
A copy of the interim report leaked to the press painted a dire picture of conditions in the military, prompting accusations of a ministerial cover-up.
The committee took the unprecedented step of refusing to process the Defence Amendment Bill until she released the report, but backed down after the Speaker called it out of line and the ANC issued a statement supporting the minister.
The bill, which seeks to set up a special service commission for the military, was debated in the National Assembly today.
The ANC chairperson of the committee, Nyami Booi, who had thrown down the gauntlet to Sisulu, delivered an apologetic speech saying he had misread the situation.?