Question session: Cyril Ramaphosa to face the music on why he approved Zimbabwe trip

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President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa will have to answer to the NCOP on why he approved the defence minister's controversial visit to Zimbabwe.
  • The trip was used to ferry ANC officials to Zimbabwe.
  • He will also face questions on Covid-19 related corruption and questions on gender-based violence.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will have to explain to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) the circumstances which led to him approving Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula's controversial visit to Zimbabwe last month.

Ramaphosa will be answering questions in the NCOP on Tuesday. The virtual sitting is scheduled to start at 15:00.

One of the questions, by DA whip in the NCOP Cathlene Labuschagne, deals with the flight, which saw civilians and high-ranking ANC officials – Ace Magashule, Nomvula Mokonyane, Enoch Godongwana, Dakota Lekgoete and Tony Yengeni – on a South African air force plane along with Mapisa-Nqakula and Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu.

After a public outcry, Ramaphosa demanded answers from Mapisa-Nqakula.

He eventually sanctioned her by docking three months of her salary.

The presidency also published the documentation provided by Mapisa-Nqakula.

According to the documentation, on 7 September, Mapisa-Nqakula asked her Zimbabwean counterpart Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri for a meeting, which would take place on 9 September in Harare.

Muchinguri-Kashiri, who also is the chairperson of Zanu-PF, agreed in writing on the same day.

Also, on 7 September, Mapisa-Nqakula requested approval for the trip from Ramaphosa.

Verbal approval

The ministerial handbook requires ministers to request approval for international visits at least two weeks before departure.

Mapisa-Nqakula and her entourage left South Africa on 8 September.

Included in the documents provided by Mapisa-Nqakula is a letter from principal state law advisor Geofrey Mphaphuli, in which he granted permission for the visit. The letter is dated 10 September.

Subsequent to News24 reporting that approval was granted only after Mapisa-Nqakula returned, the presidency issued a statement – it said Ramaphosa gave verbal approval for the visit on 8 September, the same day Mapisa-Nqakula and her fellow travellers left South Africa.

Furthermore, it is clear Ramaphosa knew of a pending visit by ANC officials to Zimbabwe.

On 31 August, Ramaphosa, speaking after an ANC NEC meeting, said: 

The secretary-general [of the ANC, Ace Magashule] will be finalising the delegation that will be going to Zimbabwe in days, to meet with the Zimbabwe governing party, Zanu-PF.

Labuschagne wants to know when Ramaphosa was first informed of the flight, on what grounds he approved it, and whether he was informed that a delegation of a "certain political party" was included on the flight at the time of approval.

Ramaphosa will also have to answer two questions related to Covid-19 corruption, as well as questions on gender-based violence, the financial sustainability of municipalities and the damage caused to the public rail system during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The question session was originally scheduled for 15 October, but Ramaphosa called a joint sitting of Parliament on that date to present his economic recovery plan to both houses of Parliament.

The questions:
  • Deputy chairperson of the NCOP Sylvia Lucas: Whether, in light of the announcement of the hotspots for gender-based violence in South Africa, the government has considered putting more resources into such hotspots to address the scourge of gender-based violence and whether any proactive interventions have been undertaken to ensure the protection of women and children in such areas?
  • DA whip in the NCOP Cathlene Labuschagne: Concerning the recent diplomatic trip to Zimbabwe by the minister of defence and military veterans, when was he first informed of the flight and on what grounds did he approve it, and whether he was informed that a delegation of a certain political party was included on the flight at the time of approval?
  • ANC MP Maurencia Gillion: Whether, in light of the reports of corruption and procurement irregularities regarding the disbursement of funds to ensure a comprehensive national response to managing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has set any timeframes for the investigation of all allegations of Covid-19 corruption and related procurement irregularities?
  • FF Plus MP Armand Cloete: Given the mandate of the Municipal Finance Improvement Programme to support struggling municipalities and the National Treasury spending of R900 million on consultants towards specialised skills advisory support to capacitate municipalities, how is the future sustainability of municipalities in South Africa ensured?
  • DA MP Tim Brauteseth: Whether any progress has been made regarding the investigations into all cases of Covid-19 fund manipulation, fraud and corruption that he authorised the Special Investigating Unit to investigate through a proclamation he issued in July 2020?
  • ANC MP Mandla Rayi: Whether the government has any processes in place to quantify the damage that has been caused to public transport infrastructure, such as trains, railway lines and train stations, during the lockdown period and what plans are in place to ensure that the restoration of the damaged infrastructure does not have a dire long-term impact on the national efforts to restore economic activity and rebuild the economy?

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