VVIP presidential jet still an option even though defence's budget is cut by billions

2018-05-18 16:20
Inkwazi. (City Press)

Inkwazi. (City Press)

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Despite a budget cut amounting to billions, the purchase of a VVIP presidential jet by the South African Defence Force is not off the table.

In her speech in the debate about the South African Defence Force budget on Friday, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said: "I must now report to the House that … the defence allocation has not improved."

"The reduction translates to an 18 billion-rand reduction over the MTEF (Medium Term Expenditure Framework)," she said.

"This poses serious constraints to defence and the plan to arrest the defence decline remains unfunded."

At the press briefing following the budget vote debate, News24 asked for an update on the department's purchase of a VVIP jet, given the budgetary constraints announced.

'Requirement for VVIP purchase'

Secretary for Defence Sam Gulube, said the purchase had to be within the budget. He said they were initially allocated a budget of R51bn in November, and then received a revised allocation of R47bn.

"Because of all the reductions and cuts, we're in a process to reprioritise," he said.

At the same time, however, he said: "We have not yet taken a firm decision of the VVIP purchase."

"But there is a requirement for VVIP purchase."

"We need to reprioritise and come up with a plan for a VVIP aeroplane."

In March, President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his unhappiness to Mapisa-Nqakula about the use of private jets on an official trip to Botswana earlier that month. He used a jet owned by the Moti Company, while the presidential jet Inkwazi was being repaired.

READ: Ramaphosa uses controversial businessman Zunaid Moti's private jet for official trip

The Moti company is allegedly close to Zimbabwe's new president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who allegedly helped facilitate a chrome deal with Moti's company, Africa Chrome Fields.

In 2015, Ramaphosa, then the deputy president, flew to Japan on a chartered plane owned by the Gupta family.

Meanwhile, the VVIP planes are still grounded due to maintenance issues, Mapisa-Nqakula confirmed at the press conference.

Gulube said the entire fleet wasn't grounded all the time.

"We're dealing with a fleet that is old," he said.

He said there was a delay in the maintenance of the planes, as the Auditor-General questioned the maintenance contract, which started in 1974.

He added that it was no longer consistent with the regulation, so they have to get a new system for the maintenance of the planes.

Read more on:    nosiviwe maphisa-nqakula

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