Even when President Cyril Ramaphosa was satisfied with Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s explanation of the ANC’s use of the state aircraft for party purposes in Zimbabwe, the president and minister are still not off the hook.
Should Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane decide to investigate and come up with a report that contradicts the minister’s, Ramaphosa could still be in trouble for defending and even aiding the abuse of state resources by private individuals. Mapisa-Nqakula’s office this week defended the lifting of ANC officials saying the minister had a discretion of who she must choose to accompany her on such trips, especially if the trip was to benefit the state.
As the ANC top brass met behind closed doors in their weekly Officials Monday meeting at Luthuli House, calls for Ramaphosa to take full responsibility for the ANC’s use of a state aircraft increased.
The African Transformation Movement (ATM) asked the President to stop “acting ignorant” and “being insincere” and grandstanding in his response to the matter. The party said Ramaphosa should account for the incident instead of requiring Mapisa-Nqakula to submit a report.
This after an ANC delegation led by secretary-general Ace Magashule used an Airforce plane to their meeting with the governing Zanu-PF party in Zimbabwe at the weekend.
The use of the state plane sparked a huge outcry from the opposition parties, with ATM asking Mkhwebane to investigate Ramaphosa’s role in the irregular use of SANDF plane by his party officials. Afriforum and Freedom Front Plus also wrote to Mkhwebane to probe the matter
Even if Ramaphosa was satisfied by Mapisa-Nqakula’s explanation for the use of the aircraft, the public protector could come up with a different view, which could put both Ramaphosa and the ANC in trouble for abusing state resources.
The protector could order that the ANC must pay back the cost of the trip or the money could be demanded from Mapisa-Nqakula, while the opposition were likely to call for Ramaphosa’s impeachment.
Political analyst Prof Dirk Kotze from Unisa said there was a thin line between the private use and the official state use of the aircraft as the ANC officials went to Zimbabwe for something that could also benefit the state – the Zimbabwe political crisis.
Another analyst, Prof Susan Booysen said Mapisa-Nqakula was likely to come up with a satisfactory explanation that would end the noise.
However, the ATM was adamant that Ramaphosa must be investigated.
“The (ATM) is neither shocked nor surprised at the insincere and grandstanding response by Ramaphosa to require the Minister of Defence to submit a report within 48hrs.”
ATM spokesperson, Sibusiso Mncwabe said Ramaphosa was acting ignorant or surprised and “actually insulting the intelligence of the Nation and scapegoating” Mapisa-Nqakula. He said the President was on record announcing the Zimbabwe trip and its ANC NEC delegation.
“It is common that Ramaphosa was part of the ANC NEC meeting that deliberated on the need for the Zimbabwe trip and that he was aware of who the delegation would be. It is also common course that International trips for Ministers and their deputies are approved by the President,” Mncwabe said.
As the Commander In Chief, he also ought to have known that civilians like his ANC comrades are not allowed to be in the SANDF Aircraft.