Mbalula's excuse for trip to Zimbabwe: 'SANDF in charge of the skies'

11 September 2020 - 15:20
By andisiwe makinana AND Andisiwe Makinana
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said the defence force did not need his approval for its trips.
Image: Masi Losi/Sunday Times Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said the defence force did not need his approval for its trips.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has distanced himself from the use of a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) aircraft by defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her ANC comrades for a trip to Zimbabwe this week.

Mbalula referred all questions about the trip to Mapisa-Nqakula, saying the defence force did not need his approval for its trips. He said the military “was in charge of the skies” and therefore does not seek his permission as they are in charge of the security of the republic.

“I'm not going to respond to that because I might mess it up,” he told journalists on Friday. “The ministry in charge of that is the one to answer questions with regard to the trip in its totality, including the people who asked for a lift. I don't have the details,” said Mbalula.

The lockdown regulations imposed in terms of the national disaster stipulate that all international travel is prohibited, except in exceptional cases and only if approval is obtained beforehand.

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Opposition parties have accused the ANC of abusing public resources for party business after an ANC delegation sent to meet Zimbabwe's governing Zanu-PF used a military aircraft for the trip.

Lockdown regulations violated

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald accused the ANC delegation sent to Zimbabwe of not only violating lockdown regulations, but also misusing taxpayers' money by travelling in the military's Falcon 900 aircraft.

“In addition to that, a military aeroplane is being used without authorisation to transport ANC party members to Zimbabwe for party-political matters. This is nothing but the blatant misuse of tax money and corruption. The ANC must repay the costs,” said Groenewald.

He said he would be lodging a formal complaint with the public protector, and will request that the ANC's misuse of tax money be investigated.

The DA called on President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the SANDF, to clarify why an ANC-led delegation was able to fly to Zimbabwe in an air force jet.

“The delegation led by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, who holds no official government position, met officials from Zanu-PF. This was not a meeting between officials of the SA and Zimbabwean governments, but a meeting between the two political parties,” said Kobus Marais, the DA's spokesperson on defence.

“The DA is absolutely disgusted by the ANC’s flagrant abuse of state machinery, its deliberate muddying of state and party lines, and the fact that the SA taxpayer had to sponsor this meeting between the two political parties,” said Marais.

ANC must pay back the money

He said they are not only calling for Ramaphosa to clarify “this brazen corruption” by his party, but for the ANC to immediately pay back the money the money spent on transporting its party delegation to Zimbabwe.

“Given the enormous budget constraints on the SANDF, this theft of scarce resources compromises the integrity and safety of SA.

“President Ramaphosa incessantly meanders on and on about corruption and maladministration, yet he continues to turn a blind eye to his own party’s complete disregard for the rule of law and the separation of powers,” said Marais.

On Thursday, News24 quoted defence spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini as having said the ANC meeting coincided with Mapisa-Nqakula's official work in Zimbabwe, and that she gave her ANC comrades a lift.