Millions of rands for ‘best of the best’ for Inkwazi passengers

Henry

The South African Air Force – in other words, the taxpayer – had to cough up almost R139 million over the past five years for, among other things, catering on board Inkwazi, the presidential jet.

Defense Minister Thandi Modise, in response to a parliamentary question from the DA regarding catering on board the aircraft, provided a breakdown of expenses over the past five years.

According to these amounts, some in US dollars, no less than R138 882 918,42 was paid during the relevant period in what according to the answers provided appear to be catering costs.

About R33,7 million was spent in the 2018/19 financial year, R42,4 million in 2019/20, a total of R5,1 million in 2020/21, another R7,8 million in 2021/22, R30, 7 million in 2022/’23 so and R30.7 million in 2022/’23.

A total of R19 million has apparently been spent on catering so far in the current financial year.

However, Amos Phago, Modise’s spokesperson, told the media in the meantime that these huge sums cover all operating costs of the plane.

“I don’t believe that,” says Kobus Marais, the DA’s spokesperson on defence.

“Operating that aircraft costs hundreds of millions of rands if you take fuel, parking costs and maintenance into account, among other things. I assume from the minister’s answer that that amount was for catering.”

Marais explains that the air force does not have a specific budget regarding the Inkwazi presidential plane. “In other words, as the president wants to use Inkwazi, that’s how money must be made available.”

However, Marais says the government’s priorities are hopelessly misplaced given the dire state of affairs in the air force.

RNews reported a few months ago that a staggering 85% of the air force’s planes were unusable by October last year. No less than 188 aircraft were unserviceable at that stage, 60 were waiting to be rebuilt, three were withdrawn due to age, 27 were awaiting repairs and six were undergoing repairs at that stage.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of rands are spent on renting planes.

“The so-called commander-in-chief of the army, the president of the country, should therefore surely tell himself that he has a specific responsibility and cannot take an entourage with him to Inkwazi and only enjoy the best food and most expensive drinks .”

Marais says that if South Africa is now threatened, “it is unlikely that we will be able to protect the country. But there is money to fly and live in luxury… This cannot be acceptable or justified.”

Minister says about London flight

John Steenhuisen, leader of the DA, put a parliamentary question to Modise regarding the allegations that the catering for a 12-hour flight from London to South Africa after Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in 2022 cost almost R600 000 for less than 18 GDP- guests amounted to

In her reply, however, the minister explains that the amount was not just for the flight from London to South Africa.

“The flight in question did not depart from South Africa for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in England in 2022. The trip was a presidential flight from South Africa to Washington DC in the USA via Las Palmas for the president to attend the official working visit to the United States of America at the invitation of pres. Joseph Biden.”

The visit to the US President lasted from September 15 to September 17, 2022.

“The flight then departed from Washington DC to London in the United Kingdom on 18 September 2022 so that the President could attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

“The plane left London for South Africa after the state funeral on 19 September 2022. The catering fee covers all legs undertaken by the aircraft,” explains Modise.

She then points out that the South African Air Force is billed for all catering needs and requirements on board for all legs undertaken by the aircraft and covered by the catering price.

According to Modise, the president’s trip to London was scheduled at short notice “which contributed to price increases”.

“External flight destinations charge all catering costs in foreign currency, which affects the prices.”

The minister also confirmed that there were only 13 VIP guests and eight crew members on board and that the air force covered the expenses.

RNews made an inquiry to the minister’s spokesperson on Wednesday morning and is awaiting a response.