Mbalula distances himself from Air Force jet debacle
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FOLLOWING an ANC delegation piggybacking on Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s trip to Zimbabwe on a state Air Force jet, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said that the defence force did not need his permission to take trips as they were “in charge of the skies”.
Timeslive reported on Friday that Mbalula had distanced himself from the scandal which saw an ANC delegation led by the party’s Secretary General Ace Magashule fly across the Zambezi to hold talks with Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu-PF.
Mbalula is reported to have told journalists that the military was in charge of the skies and did not have to seek his go ahead to make trips as they were in charge of the country's security.
On Friday Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who also chairs the ANC’s subcommittee on International Relations, said that the party’s delegation that went to Zimbabwe this week on a state Air Force jet had to take advantage of Mapisa-Nqakula’s official state trip to Zimbabwe.
In a radio interview, Zulu said that the ANC’s delegation had taken advantage of Mapisa-Nqakula’s meeting with her Zimbabwean counterpart by boarding the state jet.
Zulu said that Mapisa-Nqakula had all the necessary authority and permission to travel outside the country and that they had even done their Covid-19 tests.
She said that the trip was to deal with issues of national importance to both South Africa and Zimbabwe and that their talks with Zanu-PF were significant because the situation in Zimbabwe had a negative impact on South Africa’s own economy, security and social issues.
She said ANC officials travelled on their own and paid for their own flight tickets.
“We get accommodation whether we are going to Mozambique, Angola, Namibia or even if we’re going to the Sudan, we always go on own but right now we have pressing issues between ourselves and Zimbabwe in general and Zanu-PF,” she said.
Zulu said officials had asked if they could go with Minister Mapisa-Nqakula because they could not drive or fly to Harare any other way.
Kobus Marais, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Defence, questioned why President Cyril Ramaphosa had remained “absolutely silent” and ignoring urgent calls to speak up and take action against his fellow senior ANC cadres.
“Ramaphosa is both Commander in Chief of the SANDF, and Head of the ANC, and thus enjoined to make an urgent public statement on how his party has illegally benefited from an aircraft of the state he leads," he said.
He called on Ramaphosa to act on the matter as it was very serious.
AfroForums also weighed in on the debate saying it had launched an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of Air Force assets by high-level members of the ANC and that it would also take legal steps if it came to light that state assets were used by the ANC unlawfully.
“With its investigation, AfriForum wants to ascertain whether the correct channels were followed and whether the use of state assets had been authorised. We cannot allow members of the ruling elite to misappropriate state assets as if it is their own property. We will take the matter further if it seems that politicians violated legislation,” said Monique Taute of AfriForum.
Ministry of Defence spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini had still not responded to written questions at the time of publishing.