Flip-flopping over Zuma’s gravy plane ‘is miscommunication’

2012-01-20 14:04

The flip-flopping in the defence department about the plane that shadowed the presidential flight to New York is the result of “miscommunication”, the head of the South African Air Force has said.

Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano addressed a press conference in Johannesburg today about recent revelations that President Jacob Zuma’s plane to the United Nations in New York was accompanied by another plane for safety purposes.

Previously Ndivhuwo Mabaya, spokesperson for defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu, told media that the second plane only flew to Las Palmas and not all the way to New York.

When Talk Radio 702 produced audio confirming that the flight had landed at the John F. Kennedy Airport, Gagiano, who is retiring from the air force in March, took responsibility for the misinformation.

“On that issue there was a miscommunication between Mr Mabaya and I. I take full responsibility for that,” he told reporters.

Sisulu initially attended the press conference but left Gagiano to answer questions about the presidential aircraft.

She whispered to him, “good luck”, as she left to attend to a meeting of SADC defence ministers taking place in the next room at Summer Place in Hyde Park.

Mabaya said the “fun fair about the president’s plane must come to an end” because it is making South Africa look bad internationally.

“We have to transport the president, we don’t have to justify what we do,” he said.

Gagiano also stressed that “national prestige” suffers when there are constant reports about problems with transporting South Africa’s president and deputy president.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe missed an official visit to Finland because of problems with his plane at takeoff at Waterkloof air base in Pretoria.

Gagiano said an extra plane is needed because Zuma’s commitments are sometimes “time-critical” and there is no room for error.

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