Armscor boss: “We never confirmed buying the plane”

BY CHARL BOSCH - NOVEMBER 10, 2015

The CEO of defence force procurement agency Armscor has reportedly denounced speculation it has committed splashing out R4-billion on a new VIP jet for President Jacob Zuma.

Addressing the media in Pretoria earlier today, Kevin Wakeford said the details listed on Armscor’s website, which became inactive on Monday evening, was simply a request for information and confirmation it was going to buy the plane.

“I don’t know where the R4-billion comes from, because quite frankly we cannot afford it. We are looking at a whole variety of options. The affordability will determine the selection of the eventual solution and financing options,” Wakeford said.

On Sunday, CityPress reported that some of the plane’s requirements, which include a range of 13 800 km, ability to carry 30 passengers, have an eight-seat conference area as well as a private bed-and bathroom, could result in it becoming too expensive as only a handful of jets are able to cover the set distance without stopping for fuel.

Taking a swipe at the media, Wakeford stated that the various reports indicating it had secured the plane, “were devoid of all truth” as it is aware of the country’s current economic state.

“We are being prudent on how we exercise our planning process and the evaluation process. We know that money doesn’t grow on trees and part of our role as the executing authority on this matter is to make sure that we are being responsible. We are not going to be irresponsible”.

Speaking at the same event, South African Air Force Chief Lieutenant-General Zimpande Msimang said the current range of VIP planes are unable to keep up with rising international demands, adding that the continuing hiring of charter planes pose a number of risks to government officials.

“In the case of flights involving representatives of South Africa, interacting with other countries, the ability to arrive fresh at the destinations across the multiple time zones is critical,” Msimang said.

“The SA Air Force therefore has a need to increase their capacity to provide intercontinental air transportation to members of the SA Government”.

Earlier this year, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced that the department would spend R2-billion on the purchase of three VIP jets as the existing presidential Boeing 737 Business Jet, known as Inkwazi, had been experiencing mechanical troubles.