Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has confirmed that president Jacob Zuma will get a new jet plane to replace Inkwazi, and that R300 million has been budgeted for the purchase.
The minister was speaking at the Africa Aerospace and Defence show in Pretoria on Tuesday when she confirmed the news, according to TimesLive.
According to the minister, the plane will be procured and delivered within the next 18 months – until then, government will continue to lease out a private jet for the president, with R100 million set aside for that purpose as previously reported.
Mapisa-Nqakula criticised the controversy around the new plane plans, hitting back at those who claimed that Inkwazi, the president’s current plane, was fine.
“There are issues with it. It’s 15 years old. Three years ago it was flying 300 hours annually, now it flies 600 hours. The need for a replacement is urgent and is non-negotiable,” the minister said.
Mapisa-Nqakula also dismissed claims that the new plane would cost R4 billion, saying that the department did not have that kind of money to spend.
Analysts and plane experts maintain that Inkwazi is in perfectly good condition and nowhere near the end of its lifespan.
Aviation expert, Darren Olivier, said that Inkwazi has flown fewer than 10,000 flight cycles and is accumulating them at far fewer than 1,000 a year.
“It can keep flying for decades before it becomes unsafe,” he said.
South African National Defence Union leader Pikkie Greeff said maintenance staff had assured him there is absolutely nothing wrong with Inkwazi.
“This aircraft is in 100% condition and it’s sitting there gathering dust,” he said.
The defence minister said that the department is “not prepared to negotiate with the lives of our principals”.
“This aircraft will be obtained and it will be obtained within the next 18 months. The negotiations for this are under way,” she said.