South Africa seeks to curtail Mbeki’s flights to Sudan to contain costs
February 19, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – The government of South Africa has been picking the tab on flights made by former president Thabo Mbeki to Sudan, according to an internal memo revealed by Johannesburg-based Sunday Times newspaper.
Former South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki standing in front of current president Jacob Zuma (Reuters)
Mbeki chairs the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) which is tasked with implementing recommendations drafted by the AU Panel on Darfur (AUPD) and also help warring parties in North and South Sudan implement the Comprehensive Agreement (CPA) which ended more than two-decades of civil war.
In an internal presidency memo dated December 2010, director-general at the presidency Cassius Lubisi complained about the costs of transporting Mbeki to Sudan and suggested that the AU should fund his trips going forward.
“I will seek clarity on the responsibility of the AU in the funding of missions involving South African leaders,” Lubisi said in the memo.
The report says that the planes used by Mbeki are part of his perks enjoyed as a former president but the costs have now surpassed those of President Jacob Zuma.
The AUHIP chief was flown by the South African Air Force, and other transport and accommodation costs were also funded by the presidency budget.
“The current arrangement is not sustainable and will require some changes,” Lubisi wrote.
The trips made by Mbeki to Sudan has cost 20.5 million Rand ($2.9 million) between April 2009 and October 2010.
The spokesperson for South Africa’s department of defense Ndivuhuwo Mabaya said that Mbeki regularly used chartered flights for his trips to Sudan because of his entourage of about 15 people, which was sometimes beyond the capabilities of the air force’s aircraft.
In light of the costs, South Africa indicated that it would limit Mbeki’s travels since it believed his mission in Sudan was almost completed.
“There may be a few outstanding matters like the … issue of the oil and citizenship. At the time when the North and the South deliberate on these matters he may be called in,” said International Relations spokesman Clayson Monyela.
The Darfur portion of Mbeki’s work is nowhere near completion and in his report to the AU last November, he acknowledged that he has achieved little progress in helping resolve the eight-years conflict or implementing any of his recommendations.
Furthermore, the AUHIP chief so far failed in bridging differences between North and South on disputes related to post-referendum arrangements such as Abyei and border demarcation.
Northern opposition groups and major Darfur rebels groups have been critical of Mbeki accusing him of siding with the Sudanese government dominated by the National Congress Party (NCP).
In early 2010, Mbeki attempted to bring the NCP and opposition parties together in a summit prior to the general elections but later scrapped his plans saying both sides had irreconcilable differences over the agenda.
Several European countries such as Finland have donated money to the panel to support its work.
Article source: http://www.sudantribune.com/South-Africa-seeks-to-curtail,38048