The compelling need to acquire a new jet for South Africa’s number one citizen, President Jacob Zuma has been on the front burner recently.
On a number of occasions, the president’s jet has left him stranded including that of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma’s jet, the Inkwazi, is a Boeing 737 (BBJ) aircraft operated by the South African Air Force’s 21 Squadron. It also has seating for 6 ministers and 10 significant others.
City Press’s Report On Inkwazi
In February, President Zuma was left stranded in Burundi after the jet developed some mechanical problems.
And just hours ago, City Press buzzed that Zuma refused to fly in the Inkwazi when it arrived with fuel flowing from one wing from Qatar. As a result of the leakage, the president and his staff refused to fly in the presidential jet due to alleged fears of sabotage even after it was fully repaired and ready to transport Zuma.
Instead, the president hurriedly decided to use a rented aircraft to fly to Durban, the daily said.
Reacting, the presidency labelled the report a jabber wocky story. Speaking via a statement, spokesperson for Presidency, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga accused journalist Erika Gibson of often masterminding misleading report about President Zuma.
He said, “…the Presidency is disturbed by yet another misleading story in Naspers titles about Zuma’s aircraft and flights.
It has become a trend for misleading rumours and gossip to be reported by journalist Gibson in City Press and Rapport every Sunday, purportedly emanating from a source or sources within the South African Air Force.”
The presidency’s mouthpiece, who devoted a good deal of his time refuting the allegations added that the presidency made a call that the plane was unsafe for Zuma to use and not that he refused to use the jet.
“We requested that they provide us with a reliable aircraft. So that the president and the deputy president do not have to be inconvenienced.”
In addition, the presidency said the Defence Force is doing everything possible to proffer long-term solutions to the mess which had repeatedly affected Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Also, the South African National Defence Union (Sandu) says reports that president Zuma refused to fly in his jet due to fears of sabotage of the aircraft, are a smokescreen.
The union asserted that the report only wanted to make South Africans believe there is a need to acquire a new plane, despite not having the budget for it.
Calls for a new presidential jet have been severally made by the South African Air Force.
Last week, the media learnt that Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula expressed readiness to acquire a new presidential jet. According to the minister, the jet would not cost R4bn, as widely speculated.