Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to reprimand Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula for using the SA Air Force jet to fly senior ANC leaders to Zimbabwe has been met with mixed reaction by opposition parties.
At the weekend Ramaphosa indicated that he had docked the minister’s salary for three months, which would be paid to the Covid-19 Solidarity Fund.
Earlier this month, an ANC delegation, led by the party’s secretary-general Ace Magashule, visited the neighbouring country amid ongoing political turmoil.
However, it transpired that the ANC leaders had used the defence force jet. It caused an outcry from political parties and saw Ramaphosa ordering Mapisa-Nqakula to explain how she was ferrying the party’s delegation.
While Ramaphosa also ordered Mapisa-Nqakula to ensure that the ANC reimbursed the state for the flight, some opposition parties argued that the corrective measures were not enough.
On Sunday, the IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa called on Ramaphosa to release the written explanation he had demanded from Mapisa-Nqakula to the public.
“We will only be able to know if this sanction is really appropriate when we are in the position to know how Mapisa-Nqakula got to do what she did. Otherwise this is a cosmetic exercise, and the president is conflicted in this issue because he was also part of the ANC’s decision to visit or send a delegation to that country,” Hlengwa said.
He said it was of concern that the ANC viewed the saga as just about paying back the money without recognising that it had contravened the Constitution in terms of the separation of the party and the state, and abused public resources in the process.
The DA has been calling for Mapisa-Nqakula to be fired and pointed out that the ANC’s apology and agreement to pay for the trip was an admission of guilt.
DA spokesperson on defence Kobus Marais said: “This reprimand does not illustrate how serious Ramaphosa is about the minister’s dereliction of duty, it illustrates how weak he is in holding members of his party and his executive to account.”
The DA argued that admitting Mapisa-Nqakula had not acted in the interest of the country and that her actions were inconsistent with her position, Ramaphosa had to punish her by firing her instead of “a slap on the wrist”.
Marais also pointed out that this was not Mapisa-Nqakula’s first offence, as she remained accused of having smuggled her late son’s Burundian girlfriend on board an air force VVIP jet.
The EFF said Mapisa-Nqakula should have been suspended for her actions.
EFF spokesperson Delisile Ngwenya said the red berets however noted and welcomed Ramaphosa’s punishment, but that it would follow it up to ensure that it was implemented and that the ANC “pays back the money”.