Newspaper slammed for alleging Zuma canned plane in fear of sabotage

BY CHARL BOSCH - MAY 30, 2016

The Presidency has expressed its disappointment at claims over the weekend that President Jacob Zuma refused to fly on-board the Presidential jet, Inkwazi, in fear of it being sabotaged.

On Sunday, CityPress, citing sources within the military, claimed that a plane similar in size to Inkwazi had to be rented for Zuma’s visit to Durban this past Monday to clarify the provinces’ leadership crisis, after he refused to board due to a faulty fuel line having left the plane stranded in Qatar.

According to the paper, the plane touched down in the capital Doha a week before with fuel spewing over the wing due to what was later diagnosed as a damaged line. A charted plane had to be used to transport Zuma and his delegation back to South Africa while Inkwazi was being attended to.

The repaired plane then arrived back in time for Zuma’s visit to KwaZulu-Natal, but neither he nor his staff were prepared to get on unless 100% assurance could be given.

In a statement, Presidency spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said the claims were not only misleading, but that articles written by journalist Erika Gibson for the CityPress and its sister publication Rapport, amounted to nothing but gossip “purportedly emanating from a source or sources within the South African Air Force”.

“The President did not refuse to fly in any aircraft as reported. The Presidency requested that a reliable aircraft be made available on 23 May 2016 in order to avoid another inconvenience too soon after Qatar, where the Presidential plane, Inkwazi broke down again,” Ngqulunga said.

He also stated that Zuma was due to officiate the lunch of the new Toyota Hilux and Fortuner models at the company’s Prospection plant in Durban, and not the change of Premiers as claimed by the paper.

The latest in a number of breakdowns comes after the Department of Defence and Military Veterans announced earlier this month that it will push ahead with the purchase of a new Presidential jet for Zuma, despite widespread criticism from opposition parties at the rumoured R4-billion price tag.