Questions have been posed about President Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy President Paul Mashatile using the SA Air Force’s VIP Falcon F50 aircraft to attend a series of political meetings before the ANC’s 112th birthday celebrations in Mbombela, Mpumalanga earlier this month.
DA MP Kobus Marais said the ambiguity between the Ministerial Handbook and the Presidential Handbook was being exploited by Ramaphosa and Mashatile who regularly commandeer South Africa Air Force (SAAF) aircraft to attend ANC party political events.
“This is not prohibited in the Presidential Handbook but the Ministerial Handbook makes it clear that you cannot use SAAF aircraft to attend a political event unless there is official business immediately before or after the event.
“This is open to abuse, it is not illegal but is unethical, immoral and indefensible,” said Marais.
He said the flight history in the SAAF’s VIP Falcon F50 aircraft by Ramaphosa, Mashatile and their guests showed them attending a series of political meetings in Mpumalanga before the ANC’s main event at Mbombela stadium.
However, ANC head of the Presidency, Sibongile Besani, has described the DA’s assertions as spurious, saying that Ramaphosa does not cease to be the president of the country when he attends party events.
Besani told a national broadcaster that Ramaphosa and Mashatile did not regularly commandeer SAAF aircraft to attend ANC party political events.
“The president of the country does not cease to be the president of the country. It is not like 8 o’clock to 4 o’clock and then afterwards he can use that.
“The Presidential Handbook allows. It says at all times, the transportation of these two officials has got to be taken care of by various people – whether it is SAPS or the SA Air Force at all times,” said Besani.
“So there is no prescription that he must not do this on that one and so on. Wherever the president is, his transportation is in the custodianship of the State. This is an attempt to de-legitimise a governing party. We will not accept that argument.”
ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri also dismissed the complaint and said that the party would “not be distracted” as it prepares for the upcoming elections.
“Our main focus is to win elections with an outright majority. With its 112 years of experience, the ANC knows how to stay focused,” Bhengu-Motsiri said.
Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said a “lot of lies have been peddled about the president’s travel”.
“The president and the deputy president needed to travel. The issue is not the reason for their travel. There’s also nothing wrong or illegal in them travelling for ANC meetings or celebrations.
“The ANC, through a constitutional democratic process, is the governing party of this country. So let’s not de-legitimise the president and the deputy president attending to their party obligations regardless of how some choose to characterise them,” Magwenya said.
When it comes to the Presidential Handbook, Magwenya said it did not specify how the president was supposed to travel to non-official events.
“The Presidential Handbook does not prescribe the nature of their travel that must be supported by the Air Force, because they never stop being President and Deputy President, regardless of where they are.”