Flying Zuma home eats up rescue budget

Durban - The SA Air Force's two helicopter squadrons on the coast have received no funding this year for sea and mountain rescue operations, but have received funding for VIP flights, according to a report.

Beeld reported on Tuesday that 15 Squadron based in Durban received a small amount of flight hours for training, but 300 flight hours for VIP flights. This is apparently used to transport President Jacob Zuma to his Nkandla home over weekends.

As a result, there are no funds budgeted for the helicopters to respond to a disaster along the coast.

Zuma uses his presidential jet to fly to King Shaka International Airport in Durban and then uses two Oryx helicopters to fly 100km from there to Nkandla.

According to Beeld, these helicopter flights are estimated to cost around R36 000.

22 Squadron in Cape Town is facing a similar predicament, with most of its budget allotted to VIP flights and a small provision for training time. Pilots are no longer applying their search and rescue skills.

It was reported last week that the air force has no operating budget this year for its 30 Agusta helicopters.

The SA National Defence Force said it would not discuss operational matters in public. Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj told Beeld the air force is responsible for Zuma's transport arrangements and the presidency has no say in this.

 

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