Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is to be asked to investigate the costs to the state of President Jacob Zuma’s weekend getaway to Bazaruto in Mozambique last week.
His travel arrangements, however, conformed with the rules agreed on by a previous cabinet.
Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said on Thursday that all costs relating to Zuma’s travel, as president and whether on or off duty, were attended to by the South African Air Force (SAAF).
He referred questions about the costs to the air force, but defence force spokesman Xolani Mabanga said he could not provide details as this would jeopardise the safety of the head of state.
It is believed, however, that a Falcon 50, operated by the air force’s Squadron 21, a VIP Squadron, took Zuma to the Vilanculos International Airport in Mozambique, and that two Oryx helicopters, operated by the air force, then flew him from Vilanculos International Airport to Bazaruto Island.
Maharaj would not say whether the president travelled alone or with companions, but said the trip was aimed at allowing him time to rest, reportedly on doctor’s orders.
On Wednesday, the presidency issued a statement saying Zuma had gone for his yearly check-ups at three Durban hospitals, and had been given a clean bill of health.
The rules relating to the travel of presidents and deputy presidents are classified. They are set out in a confidential appendix to a cabinet minute that forms the basis for a draft presidential rules handbook.
News of Zuma’s brief getaway comes after Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was questioned in Parliament this week about a trip he took to the Seychelles over Christmas.
He flew from South Africa on an SA Air Force Falcon 900, but the runway at his destination, Desroches Island in the Seychelles, was unsuitable for it to land, so a local plane was chartered to complete the trip.
Documents put the cost of the charter at R83 000, and the cost of the Falcon 900 flight was estimated at R1 million. Motlanthe covered the accommodation costs of his holiday.
Motlanthe told Parliament on Wednesday that in terms of the policy adopted by the cabinet, transport for the deputy president, whether for official or private purposes, was the responsibility of the state.
The state also had a duty to provide security for the deputy president at all times, whether he was engaged in official duties or on leave.
“This policy was reaffirmed by cabinet on 20 March 2007,” Motlanthe said.
DA MP David Maynier is nevertheless planning to ask the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, to investigate public funds being used for Zuma’s “break” in Mozambique.
Maynier has lodged a similar request with Madonsela to investigate Motlanthe’s use of public funds to pay for part of his travel expenses for his holiday in the Seychelles.
“The public should not be expected to fork out millions of rands to pay for presidential holidays,” Maynier said.
“If (British) Prime Minister David Cameron can use a discount airline for his holiday, why can’t President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe use commercial airlines for their holidays?”