Mbete’s res­cue flight

Na­tional Assem­bly speaker booked off to rest and re­build strength

CityPress - - News - CARIEN DU PLESSIS and ERIKA GIB­SON carien.duplessis@city­press.co.za eg­ib­son@beeld.com

Na­tional Assem­bly Speaker Baleka Mbete had a life-threat­en­ing health scare that was so se­ri­ous she was trans­ferred from 2 Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal back to Pre­to­ria’s 1 Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal by mil­i­tary plane. Mbete is ex­pected back at work when Par­lia­ment re­con­venes this week af­ter she was booked off on sick leave al­most two months ago.

De­tails of Mbete’s ill­ness are be­ing kept un­der wraps. City Press has es­tab­lished that the 64-year-old was ac­com­pa­nied on her flight by two doc­tors, who con­sid­ered tak­ing a de­fib­ril­la­tor – a ma­chine used to treat life-threat­en­ing heart con­di­tions – with them on the plane.

Mbete was well enough to walk aboard the jet, dressed in py­ja­mas and wrapped in a blan­ket, ac­cord­ing to sources.

She shared the plane with De­fence Min­is­ter No­siviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who had to be dropped off in the Eastern Cape be­fore the plane con­tin­ued with Mbete to Pre­to­ria.

The flight took place on Fri­day July 25, three days af­ter Mbete de­liv­ered Par­lia­ment’s bud­get speech in the Na­tional Assem­bly and two days af­ter Mapisa-Nqakula de­liv­ered her bud­get speech.

Ac­cord­ing to Par­lia­ment, Mbete was booked off “to rest and re­build her strength” on June 18, the day af­ter Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s state of the na­tion ad­dress.

She re­turned only to present her bud­get vote and to chair a com­mit­tee meet­ing.

Ear­lier in June, she was in Par­lia­ment when she was elected Speaker, but she has never taken her seat in the Speaker’s chair. Some staff mem­bers have ques­tioned Mbete’s eli­gi­bil­ity to use mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties.

Asked about this, Mapisa-Nqakula’s spokesper­son, Joy Peter, said the Min­is­te­rial Hand­book al­lowed for this.

“Chap­ter 6 part 4 of the Min­is­te­rial Hand­book clearly stip­u­lates that mem­bers – which in­cludes a Speaker of Par­lia­ment – may use SA Air Force air­craft for ‘health rea­sons’ and Ms Mbete was not well at the time,” Peter said.

She added that Mbete’s term in 2008 and 2009 as deputy pres­i­dent fur­ther qual­i­fied her to be trans­ported by the mil­i­tary and to be ad­mit­ted to a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal.

Par­lia­ment said this week that Mbete “is re­cov­er­ing well and is ex­pected to re­sume her du­ties ... when the new term starts”.

It said she was “ad­vised by doc­tors to rest and re­build her strength fol­low­ing an in­tense elec­tion cam­paign in May” but em­pha­sised she had been part of the “key moments” of Par­lia­ment so far.

Her as­sis­tant did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

PHOTO: KHAYA NG­WENYA

ON THE MEND Na­tional Assem­bly Speaker Baleka Mbete

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