More wasted on Zuma's Russian jaunt

2015-05-14 10:26
The Canadair CL605 in which President Jacob Zuma eventually arrived back from Russia.

The Canadair CL605 in which President Jacob Zuma eventually arrived back from Russia. (Thomas Rosskopf, PlanePictures)

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Pretoria - More money was wasted on top of the more than R2 million which the state had to pay for the empty plane that was sent to fetch President Jacob Zuma after a weekend visit to Russia.

It has now emerged that four officials had to be sent home on hastily booked commercial flights.

Zuma and his entourage had flown on the presidential jet, Inkwazi, to attend the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2 in Moscow on Saturday, along with more than a dozen other heads of state.

When Inkwazi developed a minor fuel problem, which meant the presidential plane would have had to stop and refuel in Ankara, Turkey and Entebbe, Uganda, on the return journey, “a higher power” had reportedly deemed the security risk too high and ordered a second plane be chartered.

The air force then chartered a plane from Longtail Aviation.

Informed sources say this plane was a Boeing Business Jet, similar to the Inkwazi in size. But the air force officials had chartered the plane not knowing the Russian government does not allow ­Bahamian aircraft in its air space.

The Russian government then took over, through the SA ambassador in Russia Nomasonto Sibanda-Thusi, and chartered a third plane to return Zuma. The third plane was a Challenger 605, from Hyperion Aviation, which is based in Malta. This airline flies daily from Moscow and has the Russian government’s approval. The Challenger arrived at Waterkloof on Tuesday afternoon, long after Inkwazi had landed.

While the Challenger comfortably fitted Zuma, his fifth wife Thobeka and his head of operations Lakela Kaunda, it did not have space for four members of staff — two from the Presidency and two from government communication services. These four were hastily booked onto commercial flights, at a cost of at least R30 000 per person, if they flew economy class. A business class ticket costs R20 000 more.

The Challenger departed from Vnukova, Moscow’s VIP airport, at 22:00 (Russian time), an hour and a half late, on Monday. The day-late arrival meant Zuma missed a Home Affairs service delivery programme on Tuesday.

Sources also said the Challenger’s flight plan did not show a head of state was on board, which is contrary to ­aviation regulations. The air force, Department of Defence and Presidency had not reacted to queries late on Wednesday.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  pretoria  |  government spending

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