Army res­cues Zuma af­ter his jet’s en­gine leaks

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Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma was stranded in Bu­rundi this week when the pres­i­den­tial jet’s en­gine mal­func­tioned again.

Air force gen­er­als deemed that a small petrol leak posed too much of a risk for his re­turn flight to South Africa and the army de­ployed a Fal­con 900 to Bu­jum­bura on Fri­day night.

Zuma was in the Bu­rundi cap­i­tal of Bu­jum­bura to meet heads of state for peace talks amid a bloody Bu­rundi con­flict that threat­ens to spiral out of con­trol.

De­fence depart­ment spokesper­son Sim­phiwe Dlamini said Zuma boarded the Fal­con and it flew back to South Africa in tan­dem with Inkwazi, the pres­i­den­tial jet.

Dlamini con­firmed there was a fuel leak and that the Fal­con 900 was sent as part of the se­cu­rity mea­sures to en­sure that Zuma re­turned safely. He stressed that Zuma’s life was never in dan­ger due to the tech­ni­cal prob­lem.

Deputy pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa had to quickly step in to pres­i­den­tial du­ties and at­tended the ANC Women’s League gala in Sand­ton on Fri­day.

He said: “He was on his way to board the air­craft when it didn’t want to move. He would’ve been un­able to at­tend Fri­day’s gala. We were forced to send an­other air­craft to fetch him.”

Ac­cord­ing to pres­i­dency spokesper­son Bon­gani Ma­jola, Zuma also missed the 16th An­nual Na­tional Teach­ing Awards in Jo­han­nes­burg yes­ter­day and Ramaphosa stepped in there too.

City Press sis­ter news­pa­per Rap­port re­ported that Zuma was ex­pected to im­me­di­ately travel to Dur­ban af­ter he landed to spend time with his fam­ily at Nkandla.

This isn’t the first time that Inkwazi has left Zuma high and dry. A sim­i­lar in­ci­dent oc­curred in Rus­sia last year when an­other tech­ni­cal prob­lem with the Boe­ing Busi­ness Jet sur­faced. It led to wasted ex­penses amount­ing to mil­lions of rands. A con­fused strug­gle be­tween the depart­ment of de­fence, na­tional se­cu­rity and the em­bassy in Moscow re­sulted in three jets be­ing hired to bring him back to South Africa.

The is­sue of the pres­i­den­tial fleet has been dogged by con­tro­versy and short­com­ings and a new standby jet air­craft was ex­pected to be avail­able for the pres­i­dent from April 1.

Ac­cord­ing to Dlamini, Arm­scor was go­ing full steam ahead with the pro­duc­tion process, but the de­tails were be­ing kept se­cret.

Some of the new plane’s re­quire­ments in­cluded that it must be able to trans­port 30 pas­sen­gers non­stop to Moscow, Bei­jing and New York.

But Dlamini said the weak rand was halt­ing the process be­cause all air­craft ac­qui­si­tions were priced in dol­lars.

The snag was that the air force’s es­ti­ma­tions were cal­cu­lated when the rand was at R8 to the dol­lar, but it has risen to about R16. This would dou­ble its price. In­ter­fer­ence and chaos with the sched­ul­ing of Zuma’s flights last year led to the res­ig­na­tion of the com­man­der of the air force VIP-squadron, Colonel Danny Mo­lete.

– Rap­port

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