ANC Zim junket: DA turns attention to Ramaphosa's role in approving air force flight

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
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  • The DA says President Cyril Ramaphosa must be held to account for the SAAF flight which gave ANC officials a lift to Zimbabwe.
  • This, after it emerged that the presidency only approved Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula's trip the day after she returned, while the Ministerial Handbook required at least two weeks' notice.
  • According to the DA, it was illegal for the minister to be outside of the country without presidential approval.

The DA turned its focus on President Cyril Ramaphosa's role in the controversial South African Air Force flight on which defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula "ferried" ANC officials to Zimbabwe.

News24 reported on Thursday that the presidency only approved the flight on 10 September, a day after Mapisa-Nqakula and Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, together with ANC officials Ace Magashule, Nomvula Mokonyane, Enoch Godongwana, Tony Yengeni and Dakota Lekgoete, returned from Harare.

Furthermore, Mapisa-Nqakula only asked for presidential approval on 7 September, the day before she left. The Ministerial Handbook required that approval was sought at least two weeks before departure.

READ | ANC slapped with R105 000 bill for Zim junket

This was revealed in the documents Ramaphosa instructed Mapisa-Nqakula to provide about the trip. The presidency published these documents on Wednesday, as a testament to Ramaphosa's "commitment to transparency".  

These documents also revealed that Mapisa-Nqakula asked her Zimbabwean counterpart for a meeting on 7 September. On the same day, she received a positive reply and lodged the request for presidential approval.

Furthermore, Mapisa-Nqakula's approval to self-quarantine was only granted on 13 September.

Discrepancies 

DA MP and spokesperson on defence Kobus Marais also highlighted further discrepancies.

"According to Section 80(3) of the Defence Act, the Minister may only authorise the usage of military aircraft for any person who is not an employee of the State after consulting with the Minister of Finance," Marais said in a statement.

"Nowhere in her two reports to the President, did the Minister of Defense even mention Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni. Not only has the Minister and the ANC delegation contravened Covid-19 lockdown regulation by not obtaining permission to travel from Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, she also broke the law."

He added: "Minister Mapisa-Nqakula also abandoned her post, as the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was also only designated as the Acting Minister of Defence and Military Veterans after the fact."

"There is still no indication whether the ANC-delegation obtained permission from the Minister of Transport to travel to Zimbabwe as per the level 2 lockdown regulations."

According to Marais, the fact that presidential approval for the trip was only granted after Mapisa-Nqakula's return, "means that Mapisa-Nqakula and her entourage left the country illegally without approval from the President and in violation of the Executive Ethics Code which governs Executive travel".

READ | SANDF says defence minister went to Harare for official duty and gave ANC colleagues a lift

"The DA will submit this information as supplementary evidence in our complaint against the Minister with Parliament's Ethics Committee," he said.

"Furthermore, and perhaps more astonishing is the fact that the President made an approval to an illegality because he issued approval for a trip which had already taken place without his permission."

Case to answer 

He said this meant that not only does the ANC have a case to answer for, so did Ramaphosa.

"As Minister Mapisa-Nqakula must be held accountable for her crimes, so too must the President be held accountable for his action in this matter," said Marais.

"Very recently he has expressed outrage at corrupt officials robbing State coffers during a time that left South Africans particularly vulnerable. By sanctioning this illegal trip after the fact, his own action has now proven how hypocritical that outrage was - nothing more than performance art.

"The President had the perfect opportunity to take a strong stance against corruption by firing Mapisa-Nqakula. He wasted that opportunity and instead put his stamp of approval on it."

On Saturday, in a late evening statement, the presidency announced that Ramaphosa sanctioned Mapisa-Nqakula by docking three months of her salary.

He also instructed her to ensure that the ANC reimbursed the state for their travel.

According to Mapisa-Nqakula's calculations, the ANC should pay R105 545.46. The party had previously indicated that it would reimburse the state.

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