South African Presidency defends deputy president's holiday trip

Friday, January 20, 2006

The South African Presidency today denied that it had been inconsistent with its explanations and defense of a holiday trip undertaken by the South African deputy president, Phumzila Mlambo-Ngcuka, during December last year, which was funded by the state.

Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was appointed as deputy president of South Africa after the previous deputy president, Jacob Zuma, was removed from the position following allegations of fraud and corruption, undertook the controversial holiday trip to the United Arab Emirates aboard a state-owned Falcon 900 National Defense Force jet during the December holidays last year. When the facts surrounding the trip became known in early January it was criticized by a wide range of critics, including the country's leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the largest alliance of trade unions, COSATU. The cost of fuel alone for the use of the jet is said to amount to approximately R400,000 (at least $67,000). The total cost to the state and the South African taxpayers for the deputy president's holiday trip amounts to as much as R700,000 (at least $116,000).

The deputy president has indicated that whilst the trip was a private holiday trip, it had also been undertaken for work purposes and that she had visited projects in the UAE that she had had an interest in. The deputy president's children and the wife of Social Development cabinet minister Zola Skweyiya had accompanied her on the trip.