Mercenaries piloted Zuma's plane
Erika Gibson, Beeld
Pretoria - The secretary of defence and chief of the air force have both submitted their resignations because of problems with hired aircraft and mercenary pilots for VIPs.
Mpumi Mpofu, who was appointed defence secretary less than two years ago, resigned with immediate effect two weeks ago.
Ndivhuwo Mabaya, spokesperson for Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, confirmed on Thursday that the air force chief, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano, has also resigned, but Mabaya said the minister has not yet accepted the resignation as she feels he has to calm down following the stressful and frustrating situation.
Mabaya explained that the frustration stemmed from knowing that money has been allocated to buy proper planes to fly the president and his deputy, but that there is often a delay in the state procurement process.
For Gagiano, the last straw was two weeks ago when Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe had to take a commercial flight to Scandinavia after technical problems grounded the chartered flight booked for his delegation.
A second chartered plane was sent.
Apart from this issue, Sisulu was livid when she found out that charter pilots, who flew President Jacob Zuma to the UN General Assembly in New York in September this year, had served jail sentences for their involvement in the failed Simon Mann coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea in 2004.
Mabaya said the reasons for Mpofu's resignation were confidential, but confirmed that Sisulu is very frustrated with the delay in buying two new planes to fly VIPs.
The contract for the planes was initially awarded to a company owned by a Nigerian group. This company recently sued the air force for delaying the contract.
No plans have yet been finalised for the two planes.
The presidential plane, Inkwazi, has been grounded for two months for servicing.
Two years ago Motlanthe was on a chartered plane that had to make an emergency landing in the dark on an airfield in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a technical problem.