Following the announcement on Wednesday that the South African president will get a new jet by all means, an expert has described the plan to replace the current SA presidential jet as “foolish”.
According to the expert, there is little or no need at all to get a new presidential jet at a time when the country has a lot of economic crisis to tackle.
Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula denied the claims that the new SA presidential jet would cost up to R4 billion, as has been quoted in the media. Said she was surprised because the department had never mentioned the cost of the aircraft to anyone.
Nevertheless, Darren Olivier insisted that it will cost about R4 billion to replace the current jet, while the cost of a second hand plane should be R2 billion.
Despite the agitations against buying a R4 billion new SA presidential jet, SA’s Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says her department will go ahead with the procurement.
“Buying the VVIP aircraft – we will. But not for (President Jacob) Zuma. There will be a president after Zuma. The VVIP aircraft is not being procured because there is President Zuma who will use it,” the minister told reporters prior to her budget vote speech in Parliament.
She emphasized that the new presidential jet will be there to serve subsequent presidents of the country irrespective of the political party that produced them. This means that the jet is not Zuma’s private property.
“The VVIP aircraft will still be there,” adding that the reason for a new jet is to ensure that government officials, the president and deputy president were safe at all times.
On the contrary, senior correspondent at African Defence Review Darren Olivier revealed during an interview on Talk 702 that the the current aircraft used by the presidency- Inkwazi, is only 15 years old and flies far less than equivalent jets in the commercial airline market.
“It’s really foolish in my view; there’s no need to replace Inkwazi”. Olivier said the plane is a Boeing 737 (BBJ) aircraft that was bought brand new.
“It’s only ever been used for VIP flying.” This means it should be in perfect condition and according to Olivier, the current jet has never had a safety issue (despite reports to the contrary).
Olivier mentioned that there had only been two ‘major’ issues (not a safety of flight issue) with Inkwazi in the past.
The first one happened in Russia, where a stuck fuel valve indicated that the plane would have been required to make two stops for fuel, while the second case was an oil leak in Burundi – which was not enough reason to ground the plane.
Olivier pointed out that the Inkwazi which Zuma uses presently is exclusively for the president’s use, and no other person, not even the deputy president, is allowed to use it.
According to Olivier, Ramaphosa flies on two other aircraft in the VIP suite -Falcon 100 or Falcon 150.
However, Olivier believes that there is a desire for the president to be able to fly on longer trips without having to make a stop as this will improve security.