No new jet for Zuma

2016-10-30 05:45
The current presidential jet, Inkwazi, is gathering dust on the tarmac as President Zuma refuses to use the ageing plane.

The current presidential jet, Inkwazi, is gathering dust on the tarmac as President Zuma refuses to use the ageing plane.

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The plan to buy President Jacob Zuma a new presidential jet has been put on ice, but Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has made an additional R143 million available to the air force, for aircraft leases to fly the president around.

Armscor, the arms procurement agency of the department of defence, said the tender process for the acquisition has been cancelled because none of the options complied with the minimum requirements.

City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport, however, has learnt that Treasury was being tight-fisted, and that the defence force’s only option was to purchase a jet with funds from its operational budget.

But this budget is already under intense pressure because of cuts to the defence force budget, so there is simply no money available.

Armscor and the air force have repeatedly butted heads over the specifications of air force requirements, and the limited funds available.

Kevin Wakeford, chief executive officer of Armscor, said his team now had to start over.

“We will not deviate from the requirements governing how we should handle acquisitions, in every respect.”

The air force has had various grandiose ideas about jets that could fly to Moscow or New York carrying 30 passengers without stopping once. But a plane like that would cost a couple of billion rands.

In the meantime, the Falcon 900, the so-called number two aircraft, is back at 21 Squadron after a service which has taken about four months.

Usually this aircraft is used by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, but recently Zuma also began to fly on it.

Zuma has also apparently scaled down on his flights, and was now using the older and much smaller Falcon 50 jets when travelling domestically to spend weekends at his home in Nkandla.

Ramaphosa prefers to use commercial flights.

For international flights, such as recent trips to India and Kenya, more expensive jets are leased.

In the meantime, the jet Zuma is supposed to use, Inkwazi, is gathering dust on the tarmac. It is only used occasionally, for training purposes.

During a recent visit to 21 Squadron of the joint standing committee on defence, the air force was comprehensively questioned about what was wrong with Inkwazi.

Kobus Marais, a DA MP and member of the committee, said: “Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang [head of the SA Air Force] said all the aircraft at the squadron, including Inkwazi, were in good condition.

He did not want to admit that the aircraft were being used for training and for the flights of other generals.

“In response to my question as to why Zuma was not using it, Msimang said it was his decision to decide which aircraft would be kept on the ground, and that he would not answer the question.

Msimang also confirmed that he did not receive a request from the president about the plane’s reliability.”

“When Colonel Keith Fryer, the commander of the squadron, wanted to elaborate, Msimang stopped him,” Marais said.

According to Marais, the expenditure on VIP flights is a black hole into which millions of rands are disappearing.

Gordhan this week also made R47 million available to defence for “security services”.

Some of this money is believed to be destined for private security companies who are guarding some of the country’s defence installations.

Read more on:    armscor  |  pravin gordhan  |  jacob zuma

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