“Zuma must make do with existing planes” - Maynier

BY CHARL BOSCH - APRIL 6, 2015

Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister for Defence & Militarily Veterans, David Maynier, has lashed out at the Department after a weekend CityPress article reported that a total of R2-billion would be spend on the buying of three planes for President Jacob Zuma’s VIP international travels.

The article claims that the purchase would include two Falcon 900 Business Jets and a used Boeing Business Jet to supplement the existing model Zuma uses as the presidential plane. Delivery of the latter, worth R600-million, is expected at the end of August.

In a reported interview with the paper, an unnamed senior government official said that the plane, known as Inkwazi, had been experiencing problems and was need for replacement as Zuma’s “international obligations have increased dramatically”.

“The plane he has to use is old. It was used by former president Thabo Mbeki, and it has experienced technical difficulties,” the official was quoted as saying.

Similarly, Air Force Spokesperson, Brigadier General Marthie Visser, told the paper that they had in recent years been forced to hire planes as one of the jets would always be out of the action. She also stated that it was in the air force’s duty to have VIP aircraft ready when the need arises, and that they were merely “interim” placements until a long term deal could be arranged.

Speaking in a statement, Maynier said that Inkwazi had recently undergone extensive maintenance and was in mint condition, adding that the funds for purchasing the planes likely originated “from funds “warehoused” in the Special Defence Account”.

“It’s shocking that in the very year the Minister of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene, announced revised spending plans to reduce waste, including cost cutting on “non-critical activities”, such as travel and subsistence, a decision has reportedly been taken to spend approximately R2 billion on VIP jets for President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet,” Maynier said.

He also said that the acquisition of the planes appears to have not met the requirements needed, and that the high vacancy rate of 42% in the air force, leaves questions as to who will operate the new jets.

“This means the South African Air Force’s defence acquisition priorities, including much needed transport aircraft, may be compromised. The South African Air Force’s “No. 1” purpose is evidently to provide a flying taxi service for “No 1.

“Rather than focusing on increasing the supply of aircraft, we should be focusing on decreasing the demand for aircraft by reducing the travel requirements of the President, Deputy-President and Cabinet to a minimum, terminating the requirement that the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, and Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, must be transported on military aircraft, and ensuring that, where possible, the President, Deputy-President and Cabinet travel on commercial airlines” he said, adding that there is no reason why the President cannot use the national carrier, when UK Prime Minister David Cameron, often uses British Airways for his travels.