Cape Town – Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has insisted that the defence department has an obligation to buy a VVIP presidential jet.
But Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has called for President Jacob Zuma to reverse the decision, after Mapisa-Nqakula announced on Wednesday that the acquisition of the jet would go ahead.
It would not cost R4bn, as widely speculated, she said as she briefed media in Parliament.
Maimane said Zuma ought to do the responsible thing and clarify whether it would be bought.
"He must... reverse the decision once and for all. Furthermore, as head of state, President Zuma cannot claim that he has no authority over this decision," Maimane said.
He said MPs and Cabinet ministers had denied buying the jet, and in doing so, had misled Parliament.
Mapisa-Nqakula confirmed on Wednesday that the purchase of the VVIP jet would go ahead in a bid to ensure the safety of the president and his deputy.
"Buying the VVIP aircraft, we will. But not for [President Jacob] Zuma. There will be a president after Zuma. The VVIP aircraft is not being procured because there is President Zuma who will use it," she told reporters ahead of her budget vote speech in Parliament.
There would be another president after Zuma retired in 2019, even if he was from another party, she said.
"The VVIP aircraft will still be there," she added.
The jet was in the spotlight during the debate budget vote, with some opposition MPs suggesting that Zuma start using the state-owned SAA.
ANC MP Dumisani Gamede said opposition parties wanted Zuma to use a plane built "many years ago".
He said the ANC supported the purchase of the VVIP jet and suggested giving the minister a deadline for the acquisition.
Responding to MPs following the debate in Parliament, Mapisa-Nqakula said all MPs knew was that it was the defence department’s responsibility to ensure the president travelled safely.
"We have an obligation to buy this aircraft," she said, blaming the frenzy around the pricing on a "journalist thumb sucking a figure".