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REPORT: New jet could be here in five months

REPORT: New jet could be here in five months

A spokesperson for Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has reportedly indicated that the Minister had become “fed-up” with the unavailability of VIP aircraft, as well as the ongoing use of chartered jets for international travels.

On Sunday, CityPress reported that one brand new VIP jet could arrive as early as April next year, after defence force procurement agency, Armscor, last week published a number of details regarding the specifications of a jet for President Jacob Zuma, which could cost up to R4-billion.

In an interview with the paper, Joy Peter said Mapisa-Nqakula stood by remarks that the defence force was struggling to cope with the demand for jets, due to some being either unsuited, reserved in advance or undergoing repairs.

“Minister Mapisa-Nqakula has on many occasions made public her frustrations about capability gaps in terms of the availability of VIP aircraft,” Peter said.

“The minister is of the view that VIP aircraft capability challenges cannot be ignored any longer. We are losing exorbitant amounts to private air charter companies”.

Speaking at a media briefing last week, Armscor CEO Kevin Wakeford said the an interim jet is expected to be delivered by March next year, with the final presentation of suppliers to be tabled in mid-January.

Documents obtained by the paper shows that the original application for a new plane was first mentioned in 2011, when a mechanical problems left former President Kgalema Motlanthe stranded at the Waterkloof Air Force Base on-route to Finland.

It also stated that an air force commission found it suitable for the allocation of a new jet to the Deputy President, as well as a backup plane for the presidential jet, known as Inkwazi.

Reacting in a statement, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said the procurement again reinforces Zumas’s recent comments that the ANC’s interest comes before South Africa.

“The current presidential jet is more than sufficient for the President’s needs yet is currently being underutilised,” he said in reference to the article which found that Inkwazi only clocks up to 500 hours a year, instead of usual 800 normally covered by a Boeing 737 BBJ.

“President Zuma’s desire for luxury travel is at odds with the dire state of the South African economy and the needs of millions of South Africans who are without jobs and basic services. He must put the country first and put a stop to this ludicrous exercise”.