18 February 2013

South Africa: Did Deputy President Motlanthe's Spokesperson Lie About the Secret Presidential Manual?

press release

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's spokesperson, Thabo Masebe, may have been caught out in a lie about the existence of a secret Presidential Manual.

The Presidential Manual supposedly provides guidelines for the benefits to which President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe are entitled.

On 10 February 2013, in reference to the Deputy President's recent trip to the Seychelles, Thabo Masebe reportedly told the City Press that:

"the trip was in accordance with the Presidential Manual";

the Manual "...was finalised in 2006 after the allegations against (Mlambo-Ngcuka) and it states very clearly that presidential travel, whether officially or unofficially, will be the responsibility of the SA Police Service (SAPS) and the air force..."; and

that the Presidential Manual was "confidential".

At the time, he was defending Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's use of public funds - specifically the use of military aircraft and aircraft charted by the military at an estimated cost of about R1million - to pay for part of his vacation in the Seychelles between 23 December 2012 and 04 January 2013.

However, days later on 13 February 2013, Mac Maharaj, President Jacob Zuma's spokesperson, reportedly told Talk Radio 702 that there was no such document.

Reference to a Presidential Manual was first made by former Public Protector, Adv. Lawrence Mushwana, during an investigation into former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka's use of military aircraft for a private visit to the United Arab Emirates in 2005.

A report on the investigation refers to a draft Presidential Handbook which sets out the policies and practices relating to the protection of the president and deputy president, including the transport of the president and deputy president.

Moreover, the report recommends that:

"...the Secretary of the Cabinet take urgent steps to ensure that the draft Presidential Handbook deals with matters and issues investigated in clear and certain terms and that it be submitted to the Cabinet for consideration."

We cannot have a situation where secret rules regulate the benefits and privileges of the most powerful office bearers in South Africa.

A Presidential Manual - or at least a draft Presidential Manual - must therefore exist.

In the end, either Mac Maharaj or Thabo Masebe is not telling the truth about the secret Presidential Manual.

I have therefore submitted an application, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No. 2 of 2000), to the Presidency for access to the secret Presidential Manual and/or Presidential Handbook.

I also intend to raise this matter with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at Deputy President's Question Time in Parliament, which is provisionally scheduled to take place on 6 March.

We cannot have a situation where secret rules regulate the benefits and privileges of the most powerful office bearers in South Africa.

David Maynier, Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

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