President Jacob Zuma is getting a new jet, whether South Africans like it or not.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, speaking at the opening of the Africa Aerospace and Defence show in Pretoria this week, said: “We are 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 underway.”
She said the new aeroplane will cost taxpayers about R100 million.
Zuma’s official travel has often been delayed or re-routed of late due to “technical problems” suffered by the presidential jet Inkwazi.
Inkwazi is likely to be replaced by one of SAA’s A340 Airbus’ “parked off” aircraft from its cancelled Johannesburg-Beijing route.
Until such time, the military will continue to lease planes to fly Zuma around.
Mapisa-Nqakula, in a parliamentary response to questions by the DA on Monday, said though people said Inkwazi was fine, it was not.
“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.”
Last year there was an outcry when government said R4billion was being set aside to replace Inkwazi.
But Mapisa-Nqakula said her department did not have “that [kind of] money to spend”.
Yesterday, the Presidency denied allegations by aviation experts that Zuma preferred chartered aircraft, and said the South African Air Force (SAAF) aircraft fleet was used to transport him and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma and Ramaphosa only use chartered flights when SAAF fleet is unavailable, Zuma’s spokesperson, Bongani Ngqulunga, said.
“The Presidency agrees with the experts that the use of smaller aircraft for local travel and the general use of the SAAF fleet than hiring aircraft would be more cost-effective for government.
Earlier this month, Zuma attended the G20 Summit in China using a luxurious Gulfstream-G550 from Angola while other ministers flew commercial.