04/09/2012.President Jacob Zuma during the cabinet lekgotla that was held at SM Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria Picture: Masi Losi

Durban - Keeping the presidential handbook classified was not only “preposterous”, it was also unconstitutional, legal experts said.

The handbook was cited at the weekend by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s spokesman in defence of his publicly funded flights to and from the Seychelles on holiday.

Thabo Masebe said the flights, estimated to have cost about R1 million, were in line with policy as contained in the handbook, but that document, he said, was classified.

All transport for the president and the deputy president had to be arranged by the state to ensure their safety.

DA defence spokesman David Maynier said he would be lodging a Promotion of Access to Information Act application to have the handbook released.

Like the ministerial handbook - also classified, but now in the public domain - which applies to members of the executive, it sets out guidelines on benefits available to the president and his deputy.

The presidential handbook was finalised in 2006 after controversy over then-deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s travels.

Paul Hoffman, of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, said one of the constitution’s founding provisions was accountability, responsiveness and openness.

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said it was “absolutely preposterous” that the presidential handbook was being kept a secret.

“It’s to avoid accountability - that’s the only reason it’s kept secret,” he said.

Political Bureau