Zuma’s shadow plane saga deepens

2012-01-21 19:50

The controversial plane that was used to shadow the presidential jet from New York was provided by a company whose contract with the South African Air Force is currently in dispute.

Execujet is in charge of the ­Bombardier Global Express jet ­chartered to accompany President Jacob Zuma’s Inkwazi from New York to SA following Zuma’s ­address to the United Nations two weeks ago.

Air Force spokesperson General Marthie Visser says the Air Force has a contract with Execujet if and when extra planes are needed for travelling VIPs.

This contract is currently being disputed by competitor Ado Air, which claims it had the original ­contract but was summarily dumped in favour of Execujet.

The Bombardier Global Express is a regular feature on the presidential travel schedule – it was also used last year to take Zuma to Australia to attend the Commonwealth ­Summit in Perth.

The plane is registered in the name of Aralia Trading (Pty) Ltd, and is on permanent lease to Execujet. Aralia’s sole director, Stuart Harris, told City Press the actual owner of the plane is “an overseas client”, whom he declined to name.

Execujet chief executive Ettore Poggi also declined to comment.

It was revealed yesterday that two extra aircraft were chartered to ­accompany Inkwazi on Zuma’s trip to New York. Inkwazi was serviced recently in Switzerland and the New York trip would have been its first long-haul flight.

Air Force officials were worried that if Inkwazi ran into trouble, there would not be enough time to get Zuma to New York for his slot to address the UN.

One SAA Airbus A340-211 flew with Inkwazi to Las Palmas, an ­island in the Canary Islands where the presidential jet stopped to ­refuel. From there Inkwazi flew solo to New York, while the Airbus ­returned to South Africa.

Another SAA Airbus also flew to Las Palmas from Frankfurt to take a crew in case the A340 needed to carry on the journey to New York.

On its return from New York, Inkwazi was accompanied by the Bombardier, which flew to New York independently and waited for Zuma to wrap up his business so the two aircraft could fly back together.

According to DA defence spokeperson David Maynier, the exercise is estimated to have cost up to R10 million.

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