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SA minister grilled by MPs over Zimbabwe jet trip

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Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has dismissed suggestions by a DA MP that she’s no longer fit to hold office after she gave an ANC delegation a lift to Zimbabwe on an air force jet last month.

Alf Lees fired the salvo against Mapisa-Nqakula during a meeting of parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa). The meeting was convened to discuss the handling of the controversial Beitbridge border fence with public works minister Patricia de Lille.

The DA MP attacked the defence minister after she revealed that members of the military were facilitating the illegal movement of Zimbabweans into and out of SA at the Beitbridge border posts for shopping and chronic medication collection at SA clinics.

Lees said this, and Mapisa-Nqakula’s controversial trip to Harare last month on the jet with ANC leaders, were proof she was no longer suitable to serve in that position.

“The obfuscation by the minister of defence is very serious. Instead of doing the job she’s supposed to do and ensure that her members do, she’s allowing her members to break the law,” he said.

“I am absolutely astounded this is the reaction from the minister. It probably should not surprise me, given the behaviour of this minister with regard to taking her ANC colleagues on a jaunt at taxpayers’ expense in a jet to Zimbabwe. It’s an indication of the unsuitability of this minister to hold this position.”

A fuming Mapisa-Nqakula accused Lees of being personal about the issue, saying she was prepared to present a full report on her trip to Zimbabwe before Scopa or any other relevant committee of parliament.

The embattled defence minister is due to appear before the National Assembly’s defence portfolio committee on October 16 to account from the controversial trip that cost taxpayers R232,000.

The trip has seen Mapisa-Nqakula reprimanded by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who also docked her salary for three months, a sanction described as slap on the wrist by some who want her fired.

Mapisa-Nqakula said she had not gone to Zimbabwe on a holiday.

“I am waiting for the opportunity to be presented to answer questions, be it from parliament or even the public protector because the protector is investigating this matter,” she said.

“So for honourable Lees to come to the conclusion about my fitness to hold office, I feel the honourable member has a right to a view but perhaps at this point in time I don’t think it was necessary for him to be personal in the manner in which he has done.

“When I present the facts, you will know I did not go to Zimbabwe to visit the Victoria Falls.

“I went to Zimbabwe precisely because of some of the issues we have identified here, but that discussion will be for another day. Issues of instability in Zimbabwe are impacting negatively on the state of national security in SA. All of us know that.”