The African National Congress (ANC) has rubbished assertions by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) which accused President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Deputy, Paul Mashatile of “regularly commandeering” South Africa Air Force (SAAF) aircraft to attend ANC party political events.
On Monday, DA Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Kobus Marais issued a statement, lambasting Ramaphosa and Mashatile for “using the South Africa Air Force as their personal taxi service”.
The DA statement followed weekend newspaper reports indicating that the cash-strapped SA Air Force did at least 10 trips linking Cape Town International Airport, Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria and the Kruger International Airport in Mpumalanga in the lead-up to the ANC’s 112th birthday celebrations in Mbombela, Mpumalanga earlier this month.
“The attached flight history shows flights undertaken in the SAAF’s VIP Falcon F50 aircraft by Ramaphosa, Mashatile and their guests to attend a series of political meetings in Mpumalanga before the ANC’s main event at Mbombela stadium. This provides clear evidence that the ambiguity in the Presidential Handbook was not only being abused but was now being deliberately exploited to turn the SAAF into a taxi service for ANC political party purposes,” said Marais.
Speaking to broadcaster Newzroom Afrika, ANC head of the Presidency, Sibongile Besani said the DA’s assertions were spurious.
“This is an attempt to de-legitimise the governing party. 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.
“It is very clear according to the Presidential Handbook that the president (of the ANC) will never cease to be the president of the country, whether he is at an ANC event or not,” he said.
Besani also dismissed allegations that numerous ANC officials had also been given transport in the presidential aircraft.
“I am one of the officials who is closest to the presidency and I used my car, not the jet, the Air Force and so on. The gentleman from the DA speaks of reliable sources and so on, he makes spurious allegations that he cannot substantiate and then the burden of proof has to be on us? No. There is no such,” said Besani.
Despite doubts expressed in the lead-up to its January 8 event, the ANC filled the Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga where President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the keynote address.