Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa has imposed a three-month salary freeze on Defence Minister Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula to recoup state money spent flying senior ANC officials, including party general secretary Ace Magashule, to Zimbabwe using a state aircraft last month.
The Presidency confirmed on Sunday that Ramaphosa had issued Mapisa-Nqakula with a formal reprimand and had further sanctioned the minister by imposing a salary sacrifice on her salary for three months, starting from 1 November 2020.
“Her salary for the three months should be paid into the Solidarity Fund, which was established to support the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic,” the Presidency said in a statement.
The president furthermore directed the minister to make sure that the ANC reimburses the state for the costs of the flight to Harare and to report to him once that has been done.
“President Ramaphosa’s decision follows his consideration of her initial report and a supplementary report that he had directed the minister to provide on the circumstances that led to the ANC delegation travelling on a South African Air Force plane to Harare, Zimbabwe on 8 September 2020.
“While the Minister was on an official trip for which the president had given permission and for which she was entitled to use a SAAF aircraft, he found that it was an error of judgement to use the plane to convey a political party delegation,” the Presidency said.
The president said that this error of judgement was not in keeping with the responsibilities of a Minister of Cabinet.
He found that the minister:
* did not “act … in the best interest of good governance” as required by the Executive Members Code;
* failed to adhere to legal prescripts warranting care in use of state resources;
* acted “in a way that is inconsistent with [her] position” as required by the Code.
According to the Presidency, in his letter of reprimand to the minister, Ramaphosa said that he appreciated that the ANC had committed to reimburse state resources spent in excess of those the minister would have incurred for her approved travel to meet her Zimbabwean counterpart.
“However, the sanction imposed on the minister demonstrated the seriousness with which the president viewed the Minister’s error of judgement, given her high position in government.”
The DA has been lobbying for Ramaphosa to fire Mapisa-Ngqakula after it was revealed that Air Force’s Falcon-900 aircraft was used to fly her comrades to Zimbabwe where they had meetings with their Zanu-PF counterparts.
AfriForums also weighed in on the matter 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.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane;s office said she was also investigating the matter.
Independent Media can reveal that the minister discussed the letter’s content with her staff including her legal advisor, Lirette Louw, and Secretary of Defence, Sonto Kudjoe, during a Zoom meeting on Friday evening.
Two senior ANC officials and bureaucrats from the department who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed receipt of the letter.
“As ANC we are still shocked why the president is targeting comrade Nosiviwe because our understanding is that she was given instructions to fly with the SG and them,” said one ANC member.
Another party member claims that the minister was being punished because she had been refusing to move Denel to another department.