Sisulu clarifies number of official trips travelled

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pretoria - The former Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu has noted with serious concern the incorrect and misleading information submitted by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans on her official travel using the South African Air Force Reserve Squadron.

"This incorrect and misleading information was widely covered by the mass media nationally and internationally with an angle to project Minister Sisulu as being wasteful and not taking due care of public resources in the execution of her duties," the Department of Public Service and Administration said in a statement on Saturday.

This information was contained in a Parliamentary reply submitted by the Minister of Defence and Military, Mapisa-Nqakula in response to a question by David Maynier on how many flights the Minister undertook with an SAAF hired Gulfstream.

Minister Mapisa responded that 203 flights were undertaken by the former Minister.

According to the diary and records of Minister Sisulu, this is incorrect and highly misleading.

"Official records in the Ministry reflect that Minister Sisulu undertook 35 official trips with South African Air Force hired planes (South African Air Force Reserve Squadron) between 2009 and 2012.

"Many of the trips were to and from international destination or when the South African Air Force Falcon 50 allocated for use to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans was not available. Records also reflect that the Minister used South African Airways for her ANC, private and other constituency duties," the department said.

The Minister has written to Mapisa-Nqakula, requesting that the parliamentary reply be withdrawn and be corrected as the information submitted misled Parliament and the nation.

"It must be stated on record that in her tenure as Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Minister Sisulu and her team undertook to address a number of SANDF prolonged challenges, some with a history of over ten years without being resolved.

"To resolve these challenges required a 24 hour day and a lot of resources to be committed for 24 hours, but due care was taken to ensure that funds were spent effectively and responsibly," the department said.

Among the successes of this hard work is the unqualified audit achieved by the Department of Defence for the first time since 1994, the successful elections in the DRC to which the Minister travelled a number of times, the adoption of the SADC Maritime Strategy, for which she travelled to all SADC countries to lobby for support. 

The Anti Piracy agreement between Mozambique and Tanzania celebrated across the world, the appointment of the first Military Ombud after months of research, the tabling in Cabinet and Parliament of the Defence Review Policy and a number of Bi-National commitments across the SADC and African continent.

In her three years as Minister for Defence and Military, the Minister invited members of the media to accompany her on a number of domestic and international trips to ensure that they understand the progress the SANDF was making.

The Minister always maximised the use of the flights by ensuring that all her support staff and advisors and other members of the delegation, including the media fly with her in the SAAF hired planes.

"The conclusion by some members of Parliament and some in the media based on wrong information is regrettable," the department said.

"The Minister would like to put it on record that in all her travels care was taken to ensure that the value of public money is maximised. All of the 35 official trips undertaken by the Minister has led to a better Department of Defence, a better SANDF, a better South Africa and a better continent," the department said. -