President Jacob Zuma has endorsed national carrier, South African Airways (SAA), following a flight to New York, to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
The president’s private jet, Inkwaze, has been grounded for some time following several mechanical incidents.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula confirmed this week that Zuma will get a new jet plane to replace Inkwazi, and that R300 million has been budgeted for the purchase.
Zuma’s endorsement of SAA also comes after the airline reported a R4.67-billion loss in 2014/15 financial year, while it faces an additional R1.8 billion loss in the 2015/16 period, according to finance minister, Pravin Gordhan.
The airline has been a loss making entity since 2012, with the last available results, from 2013/14 showing a loss of R2.59 billion. The airline has accrued losses of over R18 billion over the past 10 years.
Despite its financial woes, president Zuma’s friend, Dudu Myeni, was re-elected as chairperson of the embattled state enterprise earlier in the month.
The Presidency’s Bongani Ngqulunga told EWN: “The president has said many times that government will do as much as possible to support SOEs, including SAA. He just thought, since it is tourism month in South Africa, that it’s a time to promote SAA.”
It said in a statement on Saturday: “The president had a pleasant flight from Johannesburg to New York on the popular flight SA 203.
“The president strongly recommends the national carrier to all travelers, both South Africans and international visitors, as the country marks Tourism Month in September.”
Zuma meanwhile, said: “I enjoyed excellent hospitality aboard the national carrier and I recommend SAA to all travelers. The airline provided an excellent service and we had a restful and pleasant journey.”