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Parliament, Cape Town - Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has refused to detail holiday flights made by President Jacob Zuma and his deputy at taxpayers' expense, prompting the opposition to claim she has classified the information.
In response to a parliamentary question by Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier, the minister said the purpose of such flights was not disclosed to the department for security reasons.
Maynier had demanded that she tell Parliament how many times Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe had been flown to holiday destinations on defence aircraft in recent years, how many planes and helicopters were involved, and how much it had cost the state.
Questions by the opposition about the cost of military flights for the president and his ministers have become routine and in many cases so has the administration's refusal to respond.
“The air transport requests for the president do not indicate the purpose for the trip/flight as all VVIP movements are confidential for security reasons,” Mapisa-Nqakula said in her written reply.
Maynier accused Mapisa-Nqakula of trying to hide the high cost of the president and his deputy's leisure flights from the public. He said it was public knowledge that two recent trips by Zuma and Motlanthe had cost the state R2.64 million.
“We must be the only constitutional democracy in the world where the costs of VIP flights, and the guidelines regulating the use of VIP flights, by a serving president are classified,” he said.
Maynier went on to say that Mapisa-Nqakula was misguided on protocol surrounding such flights, because documents in his possession showed at least one occasion on which the military was informed that it was being asked to fly Motlanthe to a holiday destination - in that case the Seychelles.
“The air transport request for Deputy President KgalemaMotlanthe’s recent end-of-year holiday in the Seychelles clearly indicated that the purpose of the trip was a 'vacation',” he said.
“Moreover, in the past, information on the cost of VIP flights for presidential holidays has been disclosed.”
Maynier said replies to earlier parliamentary questions had revealed that that trip had cost just more than R1m, and that a flight to Mozambique for Zuma had involved a fleet of military helicopters and cost more still.
“A total of R1.62m was spent on nine Falcon 900 flights and 27
Oryx helicopter flights for President Jacob Zuma’s weekend holiday in Bazaruto, Mozambique,” he said.
“A total of R1.02m was spent on two Falcon 900 flights for Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s end-of-year holiday in the Seychelles.”