South African taxpayers have been forking out R2 million a month for president Jacob Zuma to hire a private jet – while presidential plane Inkwazi remains serviceable and unused, the DA said.
The party said it was revealed on Sunday that the South African Air Force is paying almost R2 million a month for the lease of a jet from Fortune Air, and for a plane that is almost a decade older than Zuma’s Inkwazi jet.
“The DA position on this has been clear from the very beginning: there is no need for a new jet – either leased or purchased – while the current Presidential Jet, Inkwazi, remains, in terms of aircraft standards, relatively new,” the DA said.
Inkwazi has suffered a number of technical issues in the past year, which the presidency has described as “embarrassing”, including breaking down in Qatar, and leaving the president stranded in Burundi.
And despite protest from opposition parties, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula stated in May that the government will buy a new VVIP jet for the presidency.
While no budget has been allocated or a price tag presented, experts have said that the only planes that suit the presidency’s requirements cost a fortune.
It has been reported that requirements include being able to carry at least 30 passengers, while the plane must have a range of 13,800km.
Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula rubbished claims that the new plane would cost up to R4 billion, as has been quoted in the media.
She said the department had never mentioned the cost of the aircraft, and she did not know where the R4 billion figure had come from.
However, in a recent interview on Talk 702, Darren Olivier, senior correspondent at African Defence Review affirmed that the cost to replace the current jet was about R4 billion, while the cost of a second hand plane is approximately R2 billion.
Olivier said that the president’s plane is only 15 years old, and is currently flying far less than equivalent jets in the commercial airline market.
“It’s really foolish in my view; there’s no need to replace Inkwazi”. The plane is a Boeing 737 (BBJ) aircraft, Olivier said, adding that the plane was bought brand new.
“It’s only ever been used for VIP flying.”
Olivier stressed that there has never been a safety issue with the current jet – despite reports to the contrary.