Wed, 26 Feb 2020

While President Cyril Ramaphosa's presence at the Rugby World Cup final - "a momentous occasion for our country" - was necessary, the public deserves to know how much his chartered plane cost, the DA has said.

The DA will file a query in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to force the government to reveal how much was spent on Ramaphosa's chartered flight to Japan for the Rugby World Cup final.

READ | You're not allowed to know how much Ramaphosa's flight to Japan for the RWC final cost you

This after Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula declined to publicly disclose how much was paid for the flight and whether the presidential jet Inkwazi was out of service.

DA MP Kobus Marais asked Mapisa-Nqakula in a parliamentary question why Ramaphosa used a chartered aircraft with a tail or registration number ZS-KDR to attend the match in Japan last year. He also wanted to know what the total cost of the exercise was and from which budget item in the Department of Defence's budget it would be funded.

Marais asked if the presidential jet Inkwazi was out of service, and if so, why and by when it would be ready to fly again.

"The question requires a closed session of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence as it relates to the security and movements of the VVIP," is all that Mapisa-Nqakula said in response.

'Right to know'

On Wednesday, Marais said in a statement the DA will now apply in terms of PAIA to force government to reveal how much was spent on chartering this flight.

"Whilst the RWC Final was a momentous occasion for our country and it was necessary that Ramaphosa attended it, there are questions to be answered," Marais said.

"The DA feels strongly that information about the cost borne by the public to jet President Ramaphosa in and out of Japan does not compromise the President's personal safety, and has no repercussions of any kind on state security. South Africans have the right to know where and on what their public money is being spent."

Marais said reports suggest that there were individuals on board the flight whose presence at the final was of "questionable necessity".

"The actions of government in this regard, and the response by the Minister, demonstrates a callous lack of fiscal responsibility and complete disregard for openness and transparency. This is unacceptable in light of the fact that our national security budget continues to be cut, year after year," Marais said.

"A far more ethical choice would have been for President Ramaphosa to have used a commercial airline with his personal security team on board with him."

He said it was concerning that it seemed the Ramaphosa administration displayed the "same disregard for transparency as the government under former president Jacob Zuma did" when questions about the use of chartered flights and luxury private jets were continually blocked citing security concerns.

"This is why the DA will now bring a PAIA application to force government to disclose the information, which has no security implications and therefore should not be confidential," he said.

The presidential jet has often been a controversial topic.

In March 2018, Ramaphosa expressed his unhappiness to Mapisa-Nqakula about the use of private jets on an official trip to Botswana earlier that month. He used a jet which Moti Company owned while the presidential jet Inkwazi was repaired.

Two months later, Defence Secretary Sam Gulube said the VVIP jet was required, but its purchase had to be within budget, which was cut that year from R51bn to R47bn.

However, it appears that Ramaphosa has made use of Inkwazi since March 2018.

In 2015, replacing Inkwazi at a cost of R4bn was mooted, which was met with much public derision.

On Wednesday morning, the Presidency shared pictures of Ramaphosa arriving at the Maputo International Airport in Mozambique for the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Filipe Nyusi, with a jet marked South African National Air Force in the background.

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