Johannesburg – The battle between President Cyril Ramaphosa and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula is heating up. Mapisa Nqakula is said to be “extremely angered” by the discipline imposed upon her by Ramaphosa after the ANC’s infamous trip to Zimbabwe on a military jet.
The Star has reliably learnt that Ramaphosa was involved in the preliminary meetings leading up to the trip. The Star has also learnt that Zimbabwe’s governing Zanu-PF party had declined ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe’s attendance at the meeting because it meant that the party would also have to be represented by the chairperson and secretary-general.
An agreement was reached that the ANC delegation would be manned by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
Ramaphosa is said to have been duly informed about the ANC delegation travelling with Mapisa Nqakula.
The Star has also learnt that the trip was originally set to be from September 8 to 10 but the meetings only sat for one day after Zanu-PF contested that the ANC delegation meet them and the Zimbabwean opposition on the same day.
Interestingly, while the ministerial handbook says that a the president must approve all trips of this fashion 24 days before, Ramaphosa approved the trip by telephone a day before the delegation left.
According to sources at the department of Defence and Military Veterans, Mapisa-Nqakula is livid that Ramaphosa threw her under the bus when the decision backfired.
Weighing in on the controversy, Kobus Marais, the DA’s spokesperson on defence, told The Star that they would be pushing for accountability against Ramaphosa as he seems to be misleading the nation on the matter.
He stressed that the president’s response seemed more and more likely that he was aware of the trip.
“This happened under his watch, and thus (he is) the accountable person in the last instance. There seems to be evidence that he was part of the ANC’s discussions and decision to pay a visit to the Zanu-PF,” Marais said.
Furthermore, he alleged that Ramaphosa’s decision to approve the trip in writing was an act of a man who has been caught with his pants down.
“He seems to have been undermined to such and that even the intelligence agencies didn’t warn him.
“He allowed the MoD to deviate from the early application rule for foreign visits without punishment. His approval on September 10 seems retrospective, maybe because they were caught redhanded. Nowhere in the approval does it refer to any verbal approval or even a note to that effect.
“In this day and age, ample secured options are available to him to confirm such approval.
“The time lines of events clearly give the impression that the minister’s visit was arranged at the last minute to offer the flight to the ANC officials,” he said.
Concurring with Marais, political analyst Thabani Khumalo said it was “impossible” that Ramaphosa did not know about the arrangements.
“I don’t think that Ramaphosa was not aware of the trip to Zimbabwe, it’s impossible that he did not,” Khumalo said.
He added that the decision by Ramaphosa to penalise Mapisa-Nqakula by docking her salary by three months was going to worsen their relationship as it was not the best one since the latter was included in the Cabinet as part of a deal to appease the Zuma faction in the ruling party.
The Star has learnt of another dynamic in the story. It appears that the ANC initially had no money to fly and there were no flights to Zimbabwe as the country was in a level 2 lockdown. According to Zimbabwe Aviation Authority’s Dalington Mpofu, the reception at the airport was prepared for “ANC guests” and not the minister of defence.
“Arrival was originally prepared for a seven-man delegation. I don’t think anyone expected the minister to arrive alone.
“I would think the ANC president knew about the trip.”
“Mapisa-Nqakula knows very well that she will get the chop in the next Cabinet reshuffle and that will strain their relationship further,” he said.
Efforts to get comments from Mapisa-Nqakula failed as her spokesperson, Joy Nonzukiso-Peter, did not respond to written questions. Others who ignored written questions were Pule Mabe, spokesperson of the ANC and Tyrone Seale, Ramaphosa’s acting spokesperson.