'We were wrong': Ace Magashule says ANC will pay for air force jaunt to Zim

Aphiwe Deklerk Political reporter
The air force VIP plane used by defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to give fellow ANC members a lift to Zimbabwe.
The air force VIP plane used by defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to give fellow ANC members a lift to Zimbabwe.
Image: Twitter

The ANC has undertaken to reimburse the government for the costs incurred during its controversial use of an air force jet on a party-political mission to Zimbabwe last week after a public backlash.

The undertaking was contained in statement issued by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule on Tuesday.

There was a public outcry last week after it emerged the ANC leader had led a party delegation to a meeting with Zanu-PF in Harare, and had been offered a lift on a state-owned jet by defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has since asked for a report from Mapisa-Nqakula on the matter, which she submitted by Sunday.

The Sunday Times reported that department of home affairs had opened its own internal investigation relating to how the ANC delegation left the country while lockdown regulations prohibit travel across borders without special permission. It also reported that some members of the delegation did not follow lockdown rules as they failed to quarantine on their return to SA.

Magashule admitted on Tuesday that they had been in the wrong.

“In our quest to achieve this mission, we travelled in an unusual manner, and profusely humble ourselves where we went wrong during the lockdown. We will reimburse the government for the costs incurred on behalf of our delegation. Our delegation is under quarantine in line with lockdown regulations,” said Magashule.

The trip was meant for the ANC to meet their Zanu-PF counterparts over tensions in Zimbabwe.

Magashule said they gave a report back to ANC officials on Monday about the trip.

DA MP Kobus Marais said Ramaphosa had no option but to fire his defence minister after the ANC admitted to “shamelessly abusing an air force jet to travel to Zimbabwe to meet their Zanu-PF counterparts”.

“It is now patently clear that minister Mapisa-Nqakula wilfully allowed the ANC delegation to abuse state resources for her party’s political ends. This was a gross violation of her oath of office, a dereliction of duty and a complete disregard for ethical standards. She simply must go.”

The DA will lay a complaint with parliament's ethics committee against the minister in this regard.

“Following pressure from the public and the DA, the ANC has not only admitted it abused state resources, but has also indicated the party would reimburse the government for the costs incurred on behalf of [its] delegation,” said the DA.

ANC 'has track record of thievery'

“The DA will not allow this to happen behind closed doors. We call for the appointment of a panel of aviation experts to determine the full cost of the ANC’s trip to Zimbabwe, including the wear and tear on the aircraft and other associated costs. This information must be submitted to the auditor-general for full interrogation against departmental expenditure on the ANC flight.

“Given the ANC’s track record of thievery, the DA will not allow any stone to be left unturned.

“This repayment also does not absolve ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and his fellow ANC members who were on the flight of any wrongdoing. The reality is there is still no clarity whether the transport minister Fikile Mbalula approved the delegation’s travel across the border as per level 2 lockdown regulations.

“Like many law-abiding citizens who have had to pay fines and be criminalised by the government during the lockdown for simply going surfing or taking a jog, so, too, must ANC members be held to account.

“The ANC has for days brazenly denied any wrongdoing, but mounting pressure has proved inescapable. The DA sees this as a huge victory for SA in holding the ANC to full account for its nefarious and thieving ways.”

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