Separate planes to China for Zuma and Pravin

2016-09-04 10:00
President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma

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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma may have broken government directives when he flew to China this week on an Angolan private jet registered in Aruba, a Dutch island in the Caribbean Sea, and manned by a Portuguese crew.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, on the other hand, flew commercially, as usual, and quietly followed his own programme.

City Press’ sources in South Africa, as well as journalists in China, confirmed that Zuma and his entourage arrived in Hangzhou, the capital of China’s Zhejiang province, for the G20 Summit without Gordhan.

Treasury this week did not comment on questions about the separate trips, but Rapport, City Press’ sister newspaper, has reliably learnt that Gordhan preferred to fly commercially and that he liked to manage his own programme.

It is understood the luxurious Gulfstream-G550 that belongs to Bestfly in Angola was leased for Zuma because it can easily fly to China.

Meanwhile, Zuma’s own jet, Inkwazi, which is 100% serviceable, remains grounded at Air Force Base Waterkloof because of claims that it is “unreliable”.

The Air Force has since launched an extensive investigation at 21 Squadron, which is responsible for VIP flights, to ascertain whether there is any truth to rumours that the presidential jet is being sabotaged.

Zuma’s flight to China has raised concerns, because the government contract and directives governing these kinds of flights – especially those for Zuma – expressly state that all crew members must be South African.

Pilots also have to be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority, while all crew members must have clearance from defence intelligence.

But there are currently no South African pilots who are qualified to fly the Gulfstream-G550. There are also no South African pilots who comply with the aviation requirements of Aruba, one aviation expert in the VIP industry said.

The Gulfstream, with the P4-BFY registration number, is usually flown by Portuguese pilots. Bestfly is a new aviation company in Angola that has contracts with the likes of the American oil company Chevron.

Bestfly belongs to Nuno Pereira and has a reputation for providing a professional service.

While Inkwazi was out of commission in the last few months, Zuma has been using a Boeing 727, which the Air Force leases for R2 million per 30 hours of flight time. This plane also recently developed problems and delayed Zuma’s visit to Kenya by a day.

According to a media statement released by the presidency this week, ministers Gordhan, Maite Nkoane-Mashabane of international relations, Rob Davies of trade and industry and Sindisiwe Chikunga, deputy minister of transport, have accompanied Zuma to the summit.

After the summit, Zuma will attend a conference in Guangzhou about investment in Africa.

The SA National Defence Force has repeatedly indicated that it was looking for long-term solutions to the plane debacle, which affected both the president and the deputy president.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  pravin ­gordhan  |  politics

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