Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
- There are no minutes of the meeting Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula purportedly had with her Zimbabwean counterpart in Zimbabwe.
- This emerged after the DA requested the minutes through a PAIA application.
- The DA is now questioning whether the meeting, in fact, took place.
No minutes were taken during the hastily organised meeting between Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her Zimbabwean counterpart in September.
Mapisa-Nqakula travelled to the meeting aboard a plane of the South African Air Force. Also aboard the flight was Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu and civilians Ace Magashule, Dakota Lekgoete, Nomvula Mokonyane, Tony Yengeni and Enoch Godongwana, who all happen to be ANC officials.
Through an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), DA MP Kobus Marais requested the minutes of the meeting.
President Cyril Ramaphosa had described the meeting as “urgent” in justifying why Ministerial Handbook rules were flouted with regard to presidential permission for the trip.
In an affidavit, the Secretary for Defence, Gladys Kudjoe, stated there were no minutes for the meeting between Mapisa-Nqakula and the Zimbabwean Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, Opah Muchinguri-Kashiri, which took place on 9 September.
According to the affidavit, a letter received from Mapisa-Nqakula’s office stated the meeting “was a verbal meeting and no minutes were recorded”.
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“In view of the above-mentioned, I am of the view that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the minutes for the meeting held on 9 September in Harare, Zimbabwe, between Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms N.N. Mapisa-Nqakula, and her Zimbabwean counterpart, Minister of Defence and War Veterans, Ms O.C.Z Muchinguri, does not exist,” wrote Kudjoe in the affidavit.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Marais said: “How can there be no minutes to such an important, urgent meeting that warranted the breaking of Ministerial Handbook rules to attend it? It is common best practice to record meetings of ministers on international missions, and surely a meeting deemed important enough to organise in a matter of days would not be the exception.”
He questioned whether the meeting ever took place.
“Their only business was only ever in service of the ANC and this meeting between Ministers Mapisa-Nqakula and Muchinguri-Kashiri was concocted in a poor attempt to fool the taxpayers, who had to foot the bill for the abuse of state resources,” Marais said.
He said the DA will submit this affidavit to the investigating officer.
After a public furore, Ramaphosa ordered Mapisa-Nqakula to provide information on the trip.
According to the affidavit Mapisa-Nqakula provided to the Public Protector, who is investigating the trip, she and Muchinguri-Kashiri broke away from the ANC-Zanu-PF meeting to have their meeting at 16:30 on 9 September. The meeting concluded at 19:00. The Falcon 900 left Harare at 21:45 and landed at Waterkloof at 22:30.
READ | Controversial Zim trip was not for leisure, Mapisa-Nqakula tells Parliament
Mapisa-Nqakula requested a meeting with Muchinguri-Kashiri two days before the flight, which happened to be on the same date the ANC delegation was to meet with Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF. This was granted on the same day, 7 September.
Also on 7 September, Mapisa-Nqakula requested permission from Ramaphosa, even though the Ministerial Handbook requires presidential permission to be sought at least two weeks before departure.
After News24 reported that Ramaphosa only gave written approval of Mapisa-Nqakula’s trip the day after she returned – 10 September – the presidency issued a statement saying that Ramaphosa gave verbal approval on 8 September.
In October, while answering questions in the NCOP, Ramaphosa was asked to provide the grounds for approval of the trip.
He said the grounds for the trip was that Mapisa-Nqakula had bilateral discussions with her Zimbabwean counterpart about security matters in the region. He said the meeting was urgent.
He said the Ministerial Handbook requires two weeks – “but it has often happened that matters happen on an urgent basis”.
He said some trips are planned well in advance, while others are on short notice.
“Then we say all members of Cabinet do not leave South Africa without seeking permission from the president,” he said.
Nowhere does the Ministerial Handbook have an exception to the two-week rule, based on urgency or any other reason.
After a public outcry, Ramaphosa investigated and found that Mapisa-Nqakula made an “error in judgement” and publicly sanctioned her by docking three months’ salary.
The ANC were also ordered to pay back the costs of the flight, which, according to Mapisa-Nqakula’s calculations, amounted to just over R105 000.
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