Defence secretary angered army hawks
|Reporter||Gcina Ntsaluba, Ivor Powell|
The resignation of Defence Secretary Mpumi Mpofu had nothing to do with a series of ill-fated and diplomatically embarrassing presidential charter flights, including a Boeing 727 leased from ExecuJet to transport Zuma to the United States whose pilots were convicted for their role in the failed Equatorial Guinea coup in 2004.
Instead, the removal of the “newbroom” top bureaucrat from her position was effected amid a spy slur, rumour-mongering and character assassination, all against the backdrop of her husband, former SABC chief executive Dali Mpofu, representing Youth League firebrands Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu in ANC disciplinary hearings.
Although Mpofu herself declined to comment on the reasons for her resignation, a close confidant and former top Umkhonto we Sizwe operative said Mpofu quit because she had “had enough”.
The resignation ensures that she retains her pension and other employment benefits, which are still being finalised.
Secretariat chief financial officer Mziwonke Dlabantu has been appointed in an acting capacity in her place.
Weekend Argus understands that in her short tenure in the defence department, Mpofu made powerful enemies among the country’s military hawks.
One stand-off arose when she questioned the processes by which the South African Air Force was busy acquiring two VIP jets – at a cost of more than R800 million – from the Nigerian-owned Adoair.
Her interventions stalled the process, Weekend Argus has learned, and the deal remains in limbo.
According to sources, the acquisition deal would have been dogged with irregularities and misappropriations just like the multi-billion rand arms deal had Mpofu not stood her ground.
Mpofu was also questioning ongoing SANDF contracts to private sector aviation companies for airfreighting to peace missions throughout Africa.
At the centre of the allegations informally levelled against Mpofu is an unsubstantiated rumour circulating in ANC security circles. This is to the effect that she was attached to Umkhonto we Sizwe’s eastern command in Swaziland and Mozambique, and linked to the military wing in Kwazulu-natal, but was a double agent, secretly answering to apartheid security masters.
The allegation has been fuelled by an inaccurate biography quoted by President Jacob Zuma in announcing Mpofu’s appointment to the Defence Secretariat on April 6 last year.
After listing her educational qualifications, Zuma said “she was a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe and was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for its activities”.
But according to a former MK commander, who did not want to be named, this is inaccurate.
Mpofu herself expressed surprise when asked about the sentence, before declining to comment further.
Compounding the mystery yet further, the confidante referred to above was adamant that her friend had received no such sentence.
She did, however, recall that on one occasion Mpofu (at that time with her maiden surname Nxumalo) was detained by the South African security police, but later released without charge.
This week it was also reported that South African Air Force chief Lieutenant-general Carlo Gagiano had also tendered his resignation in the midst of a furore around mechanical problems on a VIP flight chartered by the military, with embarrassing consequences when the plane failed to take off with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on an official visit to Finland last month.
Nor was it the first time that Motlanthe had been the victim of dodgy aviation arrangements.
To make things worse, it was also reported that in September this year Zuma was flown to the UN General Assembly in New York by two pilots who had served jail sentences for their involvement in the failed Simon Mann mercenary coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea in 2004. It has emerged that Neil Steyl, one of the men convicted for the failed coup, had piloted the VIP plane that was hired from Execujet.
But, according to defence specialist Richard Young, it was unlikely that securing charter flights for dignitaries would have fallen within the line function of the Defence Secretary in the first place.
“This is something that the military is responsible for, and there is a department in the Air Force responsible for ferrying dignitaries around. The secretariat is an organ of civilian control. It wouldn’t expectably have anything to do with it,” Young said.
Mpofu refused to comment, saying the matter was sensitive.
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that Mpofu had resigned “with immediate effect”, without giving any reasons.
Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s spokesman, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, said the ministry would not comment on speculation about the reasons for Mpofu’s resignation.
“We do not comment on rumours and speculations,” Mabaya said.
In the meantime, the Democratic Alliance has demanded that Sisulu provide a full and comprehensive explanation for the two resignations, which it claims had created a “serious leadership vacuum”.
Shadow Minister of Defence David Maynier said in a statement: “The minister cannot allow the speculation to continue, and must provide a full and comprehensive explanation… Reasons for their resignations remain murky.”
According to media reports, Sisulu was annoyed that the two VIP jets had not been purchased nine months after procurement was approved by the Cabinet.
Mpofu, whose appointment came into effect on April 1 last year, previously served as the chief director and head of Housing in Gauteng in 1995, and was appointed as director-general for the national housing department in 1997.
With acknowledgements to Gcina Ntsaluba, Ivor Powell and Weekend Argus.
With my new promotion from gadfly to specialist,
I shall be applying for the currently vacant post of CEO of Armscor.
I won't be applying for the post of Secretary for Defence because they don't do anything anyway.
And I'm more of an action type of person.
Can I work remotely from home (I have cellphone(s), satellite data service, GPRS data service, three laptops, printer/scanner/fax [but no landline as the chacmas broke it], 8 terabytes of data storage (easily upgradeable with the expected emoluments), Italian commercial-grade expresso coffee machine, alarm clock, Adobe Acrobat Pro Version 10)?
I would like Ben Trovato to be my communications advisor and press spokesman and Ted to be my special forces defence advisor and chief arse kicker (he at least will have to trans-locate to Erasmuskloof Extension 2). Ted being up North, I will have to restock the fridge myself.
If things go well with this arrangement we can sell the Armscor Sun in Gauteng and move into more modest office accommodation, but with better views, in Fish Hoek or Muizenberg. Ted will then be able to trans-locate South.
Translocating the other workers shouldn't pose too much of a problem because not many of them work anyway.