Ramaphosa gave ’verbal approval’ before military jet left for Zimbabwe, Newsline

PRETORIA – The Presidency has disputed claims that Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula left South Africa on a South African Air Force jet to Zimbabwe, with senior ANC members also on board, without express approval from President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Acting Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said Ramaphosa received the request to travel from Mapisa-Nqakula on September 7 and the president approved the trip verbally on September 8 – the day of departure.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa received a written request for travel from Minister Mapisa-Nqakula dated 7 September 2020. The minister requested permission to travel to Zimbabwe from 8 to 10 September 2020 to conduct a bilateral meeting with her Zimbabwean counterpart, the Minister of Defence and War Veterans, Ms Oppah Chamu Muchinguri-Kashiri,” said Seale.

“As the president was not in Gauteng at the time the minister submitted her request, he (Ramaphosa) gave verbal approval of the travel on 8 September 2020 and signed the relevant documentation upon his return to Gauteng.”

Seale said on September 10, a day after the South African entourage returned from Zimbabwe, the Presidency gave Mapisa-Nqakula written confirmation that Ramaphosa had approved her travel.

On Thursday, the DA said Ramaphosa must be held accountable for the ANC’s controversial trip to Zimbabwe for inter-party talks.

“As Mapisa-Nqakula must be held accountable for her crimes, so too must the president be held accountable for his action in this matter. Very recently he has expressed outrage at corrupt officials robbing state coffers during a time that left South Africans particularly vulnerable,” said DA MP Kobus Marais.

“By sanctioning this illegal trip after the fact, his own action has now proven how hypocritical that outrage was – nothing more than performance art. The president had the perfect opportunity to take a strong stance against corruption by firing Mapisa-Nqakula. He wasted that opportunity and instead put his stamp of approval on it.”

Marais said Ramaphosa “only gave the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula permission to travel to Zimbabwe after she had already returned” to South Africa.

“This was revealed in the minister’s report into the ANC’s abuse of an air force jet to travel to Harare on party political business. The president only approved Minister Mapisa-Nqakula’s request to travel to Zimbabwe on 10 September, a full day after the delegation returned,” said Marais.

“This means that Mapisa-Nqakula and her entourage left the country illegally without approval from the president and in violation of the Executive Ethics Code which governs executive travel. The DA will submit this information as supplementary evidence in our complaint against the minister with Parliament’s ethics committee.”

Ramaphosa this week directed that documentation relating to the controversial visit to Zimbabwe be made public.

The DA argued that Ramaphosa made an approval to “an illegality because he issued approval for a trip which had already taken place” without his permission.

“It is clear that it is not only the minister (Mapisa-Nqakula) and the ANC, but now also the president who has a case to answer for,” said Marais.

African News Agency