More dirt on Zuma jet deal

2011-11-12 17:08

Defence department bungling derailed an R826?million contract to provide luxury jets to fly President Jacob Zuma and his deputy across the world over the next five years.

Insight into the transport crisis facing Zuma and his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe is provided in court papers in the legal battle between Adonai Aviation – which trades as Adoair – and the defence department, Armscor, and others over the canned contract, which Adoair won.

The crisis contributed to the shock resignations last week of the defence secretary, Mpumi Mpofu, and Air Force chief Lieutenant-General Carlo Gagiano. Gagiano’s resignation is yet to be accepted and he is off work on stress-related leave.

Now the defence department has asked the Treasury for R1.6?billion to buy two new planes for South Africa’s leaders.

The Air Force’s grounding of presidential jets has its roots in a public tender, issued earlier this year, for a five-year contract to provide two luxury planes for the president and other VIPs.

Adoair won the contract with a price of R826?million over five years, according to a letter from the defence department included in the court papers before the North Gauteng High Court.

An affidavit from Adoair managing director Daniel Joubert describes how he was told his company had won the contract, and provides correspondence and minutes of meetings to show how Adoair and the defence department rapidly moved to conclude a formal lease.

What followed, according to the court papers, was a series of inexplicable lapses and bungles which led to the entire deal falling apart.

In early April, Adoair saw a report on the Air Force website announcing that it had now lost the contract and that a new tender was being issued.

Alarmed, Joubert contacted the defence department to ask what was going on. He was told the report was wrong and that the contract would proceed, but still the lease was not signed.

The defence department then proceeded to issue a tender for a six-month lease of VIP transport aircraft with an option to renew it at its discretion, confirming Joubert’s fears that they had now been cut out of the deal.

Adoair was now convinced its deal had been illegally cancelled and it approached the courts with an application to compel the state to reveal why it had apparently cancelled the deal, and to prevent the second tender from proceeding.

A responding affidavit from Armscor reveals that the second tender bid also collapsed as it was unable to find a contractor who met the terms of the contract.

Treasury spokesperson Bulelwa Boqwana said no new contracts have been signed. The court ordered Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to provide written reasons for the decision not to continue with the Adoair tender.

The defence department did not respond to questions and Mpofu declined to comment this week.

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