Plans to secretly buy a R1.3bn jet for President Jacob Zuma has raised much dust as opposition parties questions the necessity of the urgent purchase.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it would send parliamentary questions to the Defence Department to provide documents and an explanation as to why there are secret plans underway for the purchase of a new presidential private jet.
The query from the DA came after a Sunday paper reported that discussions are underway to purchase a R1.3bn jet which can seat 18 people for shorter trips in Africa, while Inkwazi will be used for international flights.
Sunday Times said it had seen a document that stated that “it is essential” a regional aircraft is acquired and source with knowledge of the latest bid said the new R1.3bn jet has been kept secret because a deal was being tailored for a specific supplier.
This report came a year after the defence department announced the purchase of a new VIP jet for the presidency that would cost roughly R300-million.
The plans was later scrapped in October, thanks to the tighter budget measures from the National Treasury.
However, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula insisted that the government will buy a new VVIP jet for the presidency saying the new purchase is not for Zuma alone as rumour claimed.
“There will be a president after Zuma. The VVIP aircraft is not being procured because there is President Zuma who will use it,” she told reporters ahead of her budget vote speech in Parliament.
She also reiterated that the new jet purchase would be bought to ensure that government officials, the president and deputy president, were always safe.
It was reported that South African taxpayers were made to fork out R2 million a month for the president to hire a private jet after Inkwazi suffered a number of technical issues last year.
Meanwhile, DA’s Kobus Marais says: “We haven’t been in touch with the Defence Department following this latest rumour, but we have looked at the budget and there’s only provision for the special accounts. It doesn’t say anything about buying an aircraft.”
Questions posed to the department were referred to Armscore, which is the procurement arm of the department.
Marais says they want the department to confirm whether it intends to buy a new R1.3bn jet.
“We have a fleet of his VVIP flights in 21 Squadron, which includes smaller jets. We know the president is using some of them to fly down to Nkandla. We are absolutely astonished to read and receive a report about this plan.”
“The President seems to prioritize his tendency for luxury travel over the needs of South Africans. In fact, the DA have been reliably informed that the Presidential jet Inkwazi has flown at least 8 times since the beginning of February this year and is clearly fully functional. There is, therefore, no need to buy another plane,” he said as he accused the ruling government of making the new purchase not minding the rise of SA unemployment.
The party also accused Zuma’s government of abandoning millions of young SA people to a lifetime of joblessness by poor quality basic education and lack of skills development.
The R1.3bn jet should be spent on providing our people with the skills they need to find employment. Improving the lives of South Africans should be the priority not one mans’ unjustifiable need for luxury, the party said.