South African Plane Scandal Stymies Ramaphosa’s War on Graft

Revelations that South African ruling party officials hitched a ride to Zimbabwe on an air force jet have dealt a setback to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s drive to clean up the government.

Cyril Ramaphosa


Ace Magashule, the secretary-general of the ruling African National Congress, led a 10-member party delegation to Zimbabwe’s capital this week to discuss what could be done to resolve that country’s economic and political crisis.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance said the ANC had deliberately muddied the lines between party and state, and that its actions constituted flagrant abuse of taxpayer funds. Magashule denied any wrongdoing.

The military said the visit coincided with an official meeting that Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula — who formed part of the ANC delegation — held in Harare and it incurred no additional expense taking the other party members along.

Ramaphosa, who took office in February 2018, undertook to sweep clean following his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s rocky nine-year rule that saw billions of rand looted from government coffers. The plane scandal comes just weeks after it emerged that funds meant for tackling the coronavirus had been misappropriated.

Ramaphosa instructed Mapisa-Nqakula to furnish him with a report within 48 hours on the circumstances that led to her sharing the flight with the ANC delegation. The defense minister had permission to travel to Zimbabwe to meet her counterpart there to discuss defense-related matters, the Presidency said in an emailed statement.

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