Two top South African defence officials resign: report

4th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

South Africa's defence secretary and air force chief have tendered their resignations after the country's deputy president had to cancel a trip to Finland over airplane troubles, a report said Friday.

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has accepted the resignation of Defence Secretary Mpumi Mpofu but is still mulling that of air force boss Carlo Gagiano, the weekly Mail & Guardian reported.

The paper said the pair offered to quit over a diplomatically embarrassing incident in which mechanical problems grounded the air force-operated plane that was supposed to take Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to an official visit to Finland last month.

The minister's spokesman confirmed the resignation letters but said only air force boss Gagiano's made direct reference to the incident.

However he said there has been a "hot environment" in the military since the plane fiasco.

"We have got an air force that doesn't have planes to transport VIPs, we've got a procurement process that's not producing planes and we've got a deputy president who cannot honour an official visit because there's no plane. Naturally everyone will be unhappy," spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya told the paper.

"This thing that happened could have happened in the air. You can't play marbles with the life of the deputy president of the country."

The Bombardier that was to take Motlanthe to Finland had been privately rented, a practice the military has been forced to adopt because of a shortage of VIP planes.

Motlanthe was also forced to make an emergency landing two years ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in September his plane had to circle Wellington while pilots flying him to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand dealt with a warning light.

© 2011 AFP

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