Phumzile's flight 'irregular'
10/12/2006 14:36 - (SA)
Johannesburg - South Africa's defence ministry is to investigate why its officials spent R4.5m to charter a plane to fly deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to Britain for an official visit.
Opposition political parties and newspapers on Sunday condemned the flight as a waste of taxpayers' money.
Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota confirmed media reports of the cost of the trip, describing it as "irregular" and "shocking" but absolved Mlambo-Ngcuka - who was at the centre of a similar scandal earlier this year - of all blame.
The defence department was responsible for security and transport arrangements for the president and his deputy, although last week's charter was not authorised by top officials or by the ministry, he said.
"Consequently, I have decided that a board of inquiry, chaired by someone from oustide the department ... should be set up in order to systematically review the situation and present a report so that I can act on the matter," Lekota said in a statement.
Local newspapers said the plane was chartered from Switzerland because all available pilots had been assigned to fly President Thabo Mbeki to the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United States.
Mlambo-Ngcuka, who replaced the sacked Jacob Zuma in 2005, flew to London on Wednesday last week to meet with business leaders to promote South Africa's economic growth initiatives.
A holiday trip to United Arab Emirates in December 2005 caused a political furore after it emerged the visit with friends and family had cost taxpayers almost R700 000.