Zuma jet a ‘strategic asset’ not a toy

The defence force and government’s military acquisition arm‚ Armscor‚ have gone on the defensive around proposed plans for a new multi-billion rand jet for the presidency.

Downplaying outcry over the estimated R4-billion cost‚ Armscor CE‚ Kevin Wakeford‚ said he did not know where the figure had come from.

“We could never afford something like that.”

Wakeford‚ who claimed the media was speaking “trash”‚ told a press briefing at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria on Tuesday that Armscor would never do anything irresponsible.

“I guarantee that.”

His guarantees come as the Presidency‚ in a statement on Monday‚ called for transparency around proposed plans for a new presidential jet.

Wakeford‚ together with the chief of the air force‚ Lieutenant-General Zimpande Msimang‚ and his deputy‚ Major-General Gerald Malinga‚ were addressing the media as outrage over the proposed plans continued to grow.

Wakeford‚ highlighting why the aircraft was a necessity‚ said the need for a reliable aircraft‚ which would be a national asset‚ was growing.

“The driver of this is an important priority. Just look at the trade that we have in Africa. You cannot discount the value of that (trade)‚ with return on investments being massive.

“If you look at our trade reach both on the continent‚ and globally‚ the crises‚ we as part of the African Union (AU) mediate in‚ you can see that a single aircraft is not a reliable solution.

“We need it (an aircraft) for the daily realities which we face … urgent meetings in Addis Ababa and AU situations.”

He said that people who travelled on such planes were not just sitting back and relaxing. “Once onboard they work. This certainly isn’t a toy. It is a strategic asset for the state.”

He said a reason a commercial airline was not an option was that they did not always fly to all destinations.

“Security is also a big concern. We have to ensure peoples’ safety. It would be breaking classified and secret protocols if we use a charter aircraft.”

He said at the moment all that Armscor was doing was putting out a request for information.

“This request is to determine requirements (for such an aircraft). The request for information is to test the market on availability and is not binding.

“Once all the facts are in place we will liaise with the air force.”

Msimang said over the past few years the availability of the intercontinental aircraft of the air force had been problematic‚ “making it difficult for the air force to fulfil its responsibilities”.

“The air force therefore has a need to increase its current capacity to provide intercontinental air transportation to members of the government. The current VIP aircraft cannot sustain the current air transport requests from the air force VIP clients‚ as tasked.”

Source: RDM News Wire

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Zuma jet a ‘strategic asset’ not a toy