In a written reply to a Parliamentary question, South African Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has revealed that the government has budgeted R100-million to lease a VIP jet during the 2016/17 financial year. She further confirmed that a Request for Offer had been issued on August 18. Once the tender process has been completed, and assuming there is a successful bid, the aircraft should be delivered to the South African Air Force (SAAF) on November 1 this year.
It should be noted that the South African government’s financial year runs from April 1 to March 31. This means that the aircraft would be operated for just the last five months of the 2016/17 financial year.
The official opposition party in Parliament, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has, in a press release, strongly attacked the proposed aircraft lease. (The question which elicited Mapisa-Nqakula’s written reply had been posed by DA Shadow Defence and Military Veterans Minister Sarel JF Marais.)
In its statement, the DA highlighted that the cost of the lease “equates to R273 972 per day … more than double the price of a first class round-trip to London. There can be absolutely no justification for such extravagance while the South African economy is under extraordinary fiscal pressure and facing a potential ratings downgrade.”
It called upon President Jacob Zuma to set an example of restraint to show he is serious about stabilising the country’s economic situation. The party pointed out that the Defence Minister continued to refuse to reveal the costs of the President’s travels for reasons of security.
“Under President Zuma, VIP travel has become a fiscal black hole costing South Africans hundreds of millions [of rands],” charged the DA. It pointed out that, during the administration of President Thabo Mbeki, Parliament was informed of the routes, landing fees, catering costs and flying hours of each and every VIP flight.
The SAAF’s current primary Presidential transport is a Boeing BBJ, a VIP version of the Boeing 737 airliner. It has been in service since October 2002.