SANDF chief under fire over R100k first class flight
Johannesburg - The chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Chief Lieutenant General Solly Shoke, is under fire after allegedly spending more than R100 000 on a first class air ticket to attend a conference in Malaysia in April.
Eyewitness News reports that Shoke apparently insisted on travelling first class on Emirates. Travel costs for him and two other officials reportedly came to R218 000.
David Maynier, DA shadow deputy minister of state security, said in a statement he will request the Auditor General to investigate whether the flight is in contravention of cost containment measures set out by the Treasury, which prohibit first class travel.
He will also submit a written parliamentary question to find out the details about the incident, and Shoke's international travel between 2011 and 2014.
According to EWN, the SANDF has defended the amount, saying it was cost effective considering the type of trip that was taken, and travel costs to Malaysia.
However, the SA National Defence Union's Pikkie Greef said the union is "highly disgusted" by the revelations, and the "brazen defence of such despicable behaviour by the SANDF in its reaction".
"While troops work daily in dilapidated buildings and commanders struggle with budgetary constraints, the top echelon of the SANDF apparently think nothing of living in opulence, using the taxpayers' money, and defending their behaviour by dishonestly hiding behind 'operational necessity' of ridiculous expenses," Greef said.
Maynier said the decision to travel first class was a "monumental failure of judgement".
"In the end, it’s simply wrong for the chief of the defence force, General Shoke, to spend a fortune on first-class flights when ordinary soldiers, serving on the frontline, do not have the equipment they require, to properly execute their mission, because of budget constraints in the defence force," Maynier said.
In July, secretary of defence Sam Gulube told Parliament's defence portfolio committee that the SANDF is facing a remuneration budget shortfall of over R1bn, and this will affect future deployments.