Controversial Zim trip was not for leisure, Mapisa-Nqakula tells Parliament

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Defence and Military Veterans Minster Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Defence and Military Veterans Minster Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Deaan Vivier
  • Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was quizzed over a controversial trip to Zimbabwe.
  • Mapisa-Nqakula went to Zimbabwe for official business, but was criticised for taking several high-ranking ANC officials along with her in an air force jet.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa gave her a formal reprimand and docked her salary for three months.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has told Parliament her controversial flight to Zimbabwe, on which she ferried several high-ranking ANC officials in an air force jet, was not a trip for leisure. 

It’s the first time Mapisa-Nqakula has spoken on the matter since President Cyril Ramaphosa reprimanded her and docked her salary for three months.

She, along with Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille, appeared before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday to answer questions on the Beitbridge border fence.

READ | Zim junket: Ramaphosa gave Mapisa-Nqakula 'verbal approval' for visit on the day she left

A frustrated Mapisa-Nqakula said her trip to Zimbabwe was to address the issue of illegal crossings into South Africa as a result of the porous border between the two countries.

DA MP Alf Lees brought up the matter of Mapisa-Nqakula’s Zimbabwe trip.

In response she said:

"I don’t think right now is the time for us to discuss the matter of the jet to Zimbabwe. I think if Scopa at some point or another committee of Parliament decides they will invite or summon me to a meeting for me to present the details of what happened, then I will. This happened about three weeks ago and not once have you heard my voice as the person affected by it."

An ANC delegation, led by party secretary-general Ace Magashule, flew to Zimbabwe on the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) dime for a meeting with the ruling Zanu PF.

The SANDF defended the trip, saying Mapisa-Nqakula had been travelling on official business and had given the ANC delegation a lift. The ANC first denied there was an abuse of state resources, but after Ramaphosa intervened and asked for a report from the minister within 48 hours, the party agreed to repay the cost of the fight.

News24 reported that Mapisa-Nqakula only sought Ramaphosa's approval for the trip a day before she left.

The Ministerial Handbook requires approval two weeks before departure.

READ ALSO | ANC slapped with bill of more than R105 000 for Zim junket, documents reveal

Mapisa-Nqakula said she would remain silent while she waited for the opportunity to answer questions.

"So, for Honourable Lees to come to the conclusion about my fitness to hold office, I just think the member has a right to a view. I don’t think it was necessary for him to be personal.

"At the end of the day, when I present the facts on Zimbabwe, you will know and understand I did not go to Zimbabwe to visit the Victoria Falls. I went there precisely because of some of the issues we have identified today," she said.

She said the situation in Zimbabwe undoubtedly had an effect on South Africa’s security.

"There is a need for SA not to adopt an approach which says Zimbabwe must solve its problems. We are so unfortunate that we are neighbours with many other countries, and we have no choice to go in and intervene when it is necessary and engage with our counterparts about the challenges they have and how it impacts on us as SA."

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